Thursday, February 28, 2013

Hundreds of Immigrant Detainees Return To Families

A Greyhound bus station near the Phoenix airport is the first stop for many immigrants released from immigration detention centers in Arizona. Taxi driver Henry Williams works here most evenings. He says it’s normal to see a few people dropped off from immigration detention centers on a nightly basis, but last weekend was unusual. “This Saturday it was humongous, there was three busloads,” Williams said. That’s because starting late last week, ICE released certain detainees who weren’t a priority for detention. The 300 released in Arizona accounted for about 12 percent of the detained population in the state. “I took one who got released on Saturday,” Williams said. “We took him all the way to Fresno, California.” That’s an eight and a half hour drive. Williams said the customer didn’t have much money on him, but his family paid the fare of $1,400 in cash when they arrived. Many immigrants detained here in Arizona don’t have ties to the state, and are trying to get to other parts of the country...more

Another solar power co. with millions in loans announces layoffs

SoloPower, the solar panel maker struggling to launch its first production line in Portland, confirmed Wednesday night that it will cut its workforce as it attempts to restructure operations. A spokesperson for the California-based company declined to discuss further details but said it would issue an announcement soon. The layoffs are the latest signal of distress at SoloPower, where production delays have placed state and federal loan guarantees in peril. The company, which state business recruiters won over in 2011, already has received a $10 million state energy loan backed in part by Portland funding and a $20 million manufacturing Business Energy Tax Credit that will pay $13.5 million in cash. But SoloPower has struggled to ramp up production in Portland, where initial plans outlined a $340 million thin-film solar panel factory that would eventually employ 450 within five years. The first line was originally slated for completion in April 2012. But missed goals forced executives to renegotiate a $197 million federal loan guarantee in January, The Oregonian reported earlier this month...more

Song Of The Day #1031

Ranch Radio's selection today is The Rancher's Song by Don Edwards.

The tune is on his 11 track CD Goin' Back To Texas.

Senator Murkowski says will not back down in Alaska road fight

The top Republican on the Senate Energy Committee said on Wednesday she would not back down in her drive to reverse a finding by the Interior Department that blocks construction of an emergency road for a remote Alaskan community. The fight threatens to hold up the White House's nomination of Sally Jewell as Interior Secretary. Senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska said she would use "every tool in her tool box," including placing a hold on Jewell's nomination, if the department does not allow the road to be built. The committee is slated to consider Jewell's nomination on March 7. "This is about the safety of the people I represent," Murkowski told reporters at a briefing. "This is an issue I will not back down from." Residents of King Cove, Alaska - population 938 as of the 2010 Census - were hoping a road would be constructed through 206 acres of the Izembek National Wildlife Refuge to an airport in nearby Cold Bay for emergency medical evacuations. However, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, an arm of the Interior Department, issued an environmental assessment this month saying the road would "irretrievably damage" the ecology of the refuge and its ability to support native wildlife...more

Henderson lawsuit links developer Milam, ex-BLM chief Abbey

Former Bureau of Land Management head Bob Abbey's consulting firm has been named as a defendant in the city of Henderson's lawsuit over allegations of fraud by embattled developer Chris Milam. The firm, Abbey, Stubbs & Ford, of Henderson, was listed among four new defendants in court papers filed Friday by lawyers representing the city. Abbey and longtime friend and fellow ex-BLM official Mike Ford are partners in the firm. Ford is already a defendant in the Milam case. In naming Abbey, Stubbs & Ford as a defendant, the city for the first time directly links Milam to Abbey, who was BLM director when Ford helped Milam buy 480 acres of federal land in Henderson at a bargain price. Ford and Abbey were partners before Abbey was tapped by the Obama administration to run the BLM in 2010. He retired from the agency in May 2012 and rejoined the firm on Aug. 1. The firm stands to gain a $528,000 "success fee" when the land deal culminates. "It has become apparent that the scope of the Defendants' plot is broader than originally believed," the court papers said. Henderson endorsed Milam's bid for the land, helping him buy it for a below-market price of $10.56 million - or $22,000 an acre - because he promised to build a professional sports complex there. In court papers, the city accuses Milam of planning all along to flip the land for commercial and residential development. In addition to Henderson's lawsuit, the land deal is under investigation by the U.S. Department of Interior's inspector general. Federal officials have declined to characterize the scope of that investigation. The recent court filings also allege the modified competitive bidding procedure, which allowed Milam to match any other bid submitted, "allowed (the developer) to obtain the land at a significant discount." The city's new court papers cited a June 7 email from Ford to Milam that reads, "We were extraordinarily fortunate to have been able to obtain the land at $.50/ft, or $22K/acre. Call it a mixture of good luck and good work by your friendly BLM consultant. "As you have learned, current land values in the surrounding area (south valley and Henderson) are generally 2 to 5 times higher, and as much as $100K-$125k per acre in nearby areas. We were pleased to get through the BLM process without any substantive challenge." John Ritter, the master plan developer of the Inspirada development adjoining the BLM site, described Ford's email as a "smoking gun" because "it shows Ford's opinion that they were getting the land for far less than fair market value."...more

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Takeover of fed lands could be costly, profitable

Legislation that would move the ownership and management of some federal lands in New Mexico to the state would require at least $180 million annually in new state spending and likely more. The Transfer of Public Lands Act, introduced by Sen. Richard C. Martinez, D-Espanola, and Yvette Herrell, R-Alamogordo, would instruct the federal government to give up title to most U.S. Forest Service lands and Bureau of Land Management properties. The multi-millions of acres of public lands would be transferred to the state by Dec. 31, 2015. Herrell said improper federal management of the lands has resulted in overgrown forests that create wildland fire threats. In a fiscal impact report, the New Mexico Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources Department estimated that if the lands transfers occurred, full compliance with the measure would require hiring added staff to undertake the duties currently performed by some 1,300 federal employees of the Forest Service and the BLM in the state. The total cost to for replacement state employees was estimated by the department to be more than $180 million annually, based on fiscal year 2012 budgets of $79.3 million for the Forest Service and $100.3 million for the BLM. The costs do not include expenses related to wildland fire suppression, which, based on fiscal year 2012 for the federal lands, could add another $81 million to the budget. Other initiatives would further increase the costs...more

Everybody knows that state employees don't cost as much as federal employees, and it would  take fewer state employees to manage these lands. But setting that aside, let's grant the $180 million in costs. These lands would receive better management under state jurisdiction thus lessening the fire fighting costs, but let's also set that aside and grant an additional $81 million.  That gives us a total cost of $261 million.

However, there is also the revenue side of the ledger:

The New Mexico Department of Finance noted that while the costs of managing the lands are significant, there could be a plus. New Mexico currently receives 49 percent of natural resource royalties generated on federal lands. Under the proposal, the state would receive 100 percent of royalties.  The potential fiscal impact of the additional royalty revenues was estimated at $400 million to $500 million annually.

So the worst-case scenario of the high estimate in costs ($261 million) and the low estimate of revenue ($400 million) still gives you a net benefit to the state of $139 million.  This basically says the net benefit would range from $139 to $239 million PER YEAR!  

This should come as no surprise to those who recall the 1981 NMSU study which found "Based on data in this report, however, the benefits definitely exceed the costs of a transfer."

Coyote-killing contests still legal: Bill dies in NM House

Coyote-killing contests will remain part of life in New Mexico. The state House of Representatives on Tuesday defeated a bill to ban the events, such as one last fall in which a gun shop owner collected $50 entry fees and then gave prizes to the team that killed the most coyotes. The House vote was 38-30 with a handful of Democrats joining Republicans in defeating the bill. "We have to be able to maintain our cattle, our ranches and our livelihoods," said Rep. William Gray, R-Artesia. State Rep. Nate Cote, D-Organ, sponsored the measure to ban coyote-killing competitions. He said they were bad for the state's image and that even hunters had denounced them as unsportsmanlike. Cote himself is a hunter. Opponents of the bill included the state Game and Fish Department. Its director, Jim Lane, said the ban could have negatively affected predator management and license fees. New Mexico residents can hunt coyotes and skunks anytime without a license...more

NCBA, PLC file brief in Hage case

The National Cattlemen's Beef Association along with the Public Lands Council is asking the U.S. Supreme Court to take up Hage versus United States - a decades-long property rights case - to determine whether the U.S. forest Service violated the Takings Clause of the Constitution when it interfered with Nevada ranchers and their stock water rights. The U.S. Forest Service denied the Hage family access to ditches supplying their stock and several meadows with water. The family was forced to file for a permit to maintain and use the water. A federal claims court decided the family was owed compensation by the agency - but the Federal Circuit Court of Appeals reversed the decision in part. The organizations filed an amicus curiae brief through the Western Resources Legal Center. PLC President Brice Lee says the case's precedent-setting nature and importance to livestock producers' property rights merits the high court's consideration...more

Drought Outlook

BLM bans target shooting at southern Ariz. monument

The federal government is banning recreational target shooting at Ironwood Forest National Monument in southern Arizona because of damage to cacti, trees and rocks with prehistoric carvings. The Bureau of Land Management said studies found that shooters damaged resources at more than 30 sites and that designating a few areas for shooting would just concentrate damage there. The BLM's decision is supported by conservationists and opposed by advocates for gun owners, the Arizona Daily Star ( ) reported Tuesday. Todd Rathner, a national board member of the National Rifle Association, said it's absurd that there's no place on a 129,000-acre monument for recreational shooting. "Obviously they bent to the will of extremists who have been putting pressure on them," Rathner said. The BLM proposed a similar ban in the larger Sonoran Desert National Monument north of Ironwood Forest, but the agency withdrew the proposal last May because of complaints by the NRA and other groups...more

Study highlights growing violence against women, femicide in Mexico

The study recognizes and emphasizes that regional zones in Mexico matter. A woman living in the Northeastern region of Mexico, between the ages of 20 to 24, is 29 times more likely to die as a result of a homicide, than a woman with the same age residing at the center of the country. Conavim reported that within Mexico alone, 67% of women been the target of a crime. As an example of the common occurrences that exemplifies mistreatment against women, the Commission stipulates that 27% of indigenous women that used public health services were sterilized without their consent. Sociologist Florinda Riquer discovered in her research that the violence against women in Mexico is continual, that is, in many instances women have been abused as children and by their partners. Violence also has a social dimension according to Riquer; the same women may have been the subject of abuse in their work place and within the academic setting...more In other words, the closer they get to the cartels on our border the more likely they are to die.

White House: ICE to blame for release of illegals

The White House said Wednesday it had nothing to do with the decision by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement to release immigrants awaiting deportation back into the country in order to save money ahead of the looming budget “sequesters.” “This was a decision made by career officials at ICE without any input from the White House as a result of fiscal uncertainty over the continuing resolution as well as possible sequestration,” spokesman Jay Carney told reporters. He didn’t say whether the White House agreed with the decision, but seemed to defend it, saying that all of the immigrants released remain subject to deportation and are still being supervised either electronically or by being required to check in regularly. Mr. Carney said it costs less money to release the immigrants and monitor them than it does to hold them in detention centers, and he said that will help ICE stay within a new lower budget that will result from the automatic across-the-board spending cuts slated to begin Friday morning. The White House didn’t say why the administration began releasing immigrants before the budget cuts...more

Why capitalism doesn't work

The Fairy Tale on Spending Cuts

by Michael Tanner

"The sequester is coming, the sequester is coming,” cries Chicken Little, speaking of the across-the-board spending reductions set to kick in next Friday. As a result, much of the Washington establishment, politicians of both parties, and the media are bracing for the apocalypse.

Henny Penny worries about poisoned meat going uninspected, the air traffic control system shutting down, and schools being forced to close. Meanwhile Turkey Lurkey is afraid that national security is threatened because our military will be gutted. And Foxy Loxy is concerned there will be massive job losses and our economy will crash.

The reality, though, is that most of what we are being told about the sequester is just a fairy tale. Here’s why: 

The sequester imposes savage spending cuts

Actually, the sequester doesn’t cut federal spending at all, or rather it cuts it only in the Washington sense of any reduction from projected baseline increases is a cut. In reality, even if the sequester goes through, the federal government will spend more every single year. In fact, in 2023 it will be spending $2.39 trillion more than it does today.

OK, but at least the reductions in projected spending are big, right?

Hardly. This year, the sequester would slow the growth in federal spending by just $85 billion, from an expected, pre-sequester budget of $3.64 trillion — less than a 2.3% reduction. To put that in perspective, the federal government borrows $85 billion every 28 days . In fact, this actually overstates the size of this year’s cuts. Because of ongoing contracts and the Byzantine labyrinth of federal budgeting, only $44 billion of that $85 billion will actually be cut from this year’s budget. The rest will be cut in future years, but attributed to this year’s budget. So, the real reduction in federal spending this year is just 1.2%. If the federal government can’t reduce spending by less than a penny-and-a-half on the dollar without throwing us into the dark ages, something is truly wrong.

But aren’t the cuts larger for domestic discretionary spending?

It is true that the cuts are not spread equally across all types of federal spending. Entitlement programs, such as Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security are generally exempt — Grandma’s Social Security check won’t be cut — meaning that discretionary spending takes a disproportionately larger hit. Still, we are talking about a reduction of less than 9%. That would leave domestic discretionary spending, after adjusting for inflation, at roughly the same level as 2009. You recall 2009, don’t you? The starvation, the mass closure of our schools, the shutdown of the transportation system, the burning cities?

NM Man: Want to find his hidden treasure worth millions?

A New Mexico multimillionaire wants you to get off the couch and go searching for hidden treasure. Forrest Fenn, 82, believes too many Americans spend their free time watching TV or playing video games. He hopes the bounty he hid — a chest filled with millions of dollars in gold coins, diamonds and emeralds, among other gems — will prompt some to explore the outdoors. "Get your kids out in the countryside, take them fishing and get them away from their little hand-held machines," he told TODAY. Fenn hid the chest in a secret spot three years ago with two goals in mind: Getting people to fall in love with America's scenic trails and passing on what he calls the "thrill of the chase," something he has experienced over more than seven decades of hunting for rare objects. "The Thrill of the Chase" is also the title of Fenn's self-published autobiography, which contains an unusual map to the treasure, a poem with 9 clues in it. "Begin it where warm waters halt, and take it in the canyon down, not far, but too far to walk," reads part of the poem. The chest, weighing in at over 40 pounds, contains items Fenn has accumulated over more than seven decades of a life that reads like an adventure novel. In the 1970s, the father of two opened Fenn Gallery on Paseo de Peralta in Santa Fe. The family slept on a mattress on the floor, but eventually moved into a house complete with a home office for his objects, made by Southwestern tribes that he either dug up himself or purchased. "I never went to college, I never studied business, I never studied art," said Fenn in his studio, surrounded by perfectly organized rows of leather moccasins, pottery, beaded dolls and book-filled shelves. "I had imagination, I had guts that made my imagination worth something to me and I was willing to work."...more

Song Of The Day #1030

Continuing with modern practitioners of western music here is R.W. Hampton with Donnie Catch A Horse.

The tune is on his 11 track CD My Old Friends (mp3 download) or as a CD from his store.

State Forests Management Superior to Federal Forests for Job Creation, Revenue Production, Local Economies and Fire Prevention

WASHINGTON D.C. – Today the House Subcommittee on Public Lands and Environmental Regulation held a hearing examining, State Forest Management: A Model for Promoting Healthy Forests, Rural Schools and Jobs.”  The hearing was an opportunity to hear from state leaders, local land managers and timber experts on the inadequacies and burdens of current federal forest management practices that have contributed to poor forest health, underfunded schools, lost jobs, and suppressed economic activities in communities near National Forests.   In comparison, state managed forests can often produce hundreds of times more revenue, from just a fraction of the land base while maintaining vibrant, healthy forests to support local communities.

“[Washington state] lands generate an average of $168 million annually, support construction of public elementary, middle school and high schools statewide, facilities at the state’s universities, and other state facilities and institutions.  In comparison, the U.S. Forest Service is responsible for managing over 9 million acres of forest land contained within seven different national forests in the State of Washington, yet harvests just 2 percent of the new growth, yielding a four-year average of only $589,000 in revenue,” said Natural Resources Committee Chairman Doc Hastings (WA-04).  “Rather than offering all-too-familiar rhetoric of how complying with one federal law or another ‘costs too much,’ it’s time for the federal government to adjust how it does business, and honor its own statutory responsibilities to manage the forests, including allowing sufficient timber harvests, that benefit forested counties and their schools, as well as improve declining forest health and reduce the threat and soaring costs of catastrophic wildfire.” 

“Over the last few decades we’ve seen our National Forest System fall into complete neglect—what was once a valuable asset that deteriorated into a growing liability.  I believe our forests and public lands are long overdue for a paradigm shift,” said Subcommittee on Public Lands and Environmental Regulation Chairman Rob Bishop (UT-01).  “It’s time for the federal government to cease being the absentee landlord of over 600 million acres of land in this country that it controls and start leveraging those lands in a way that benefits rather than  burdens the taxpayers and communities who are forced to play host to the federal estate.” 


Witnesses highlighted examples from state forests across the country that significantly outperform neighboring federally manage forests in revenue production and board feet harvested while spending less money on management for healthier forests, less susceptible to catastrophic wildfires. 

Idaho Governor, Butch Otter, provided detailed statistics comparing Idaho managed state forests to federally managed forests in Idaho and concluded “even though the Forest Service is the largest forest land manager in Idaho, the State and private forests provide over 90 percent of the wood milled in our state. Timber harvests on federal lands in Idaho are the lowest they have been since 1952, and less than 1 percent of national forests are logged nationwide each year.”  The Governor said that considering the amount of federal forest land that burn each year, it appears to people in his state “the federal government would rather see a valuable resource go up in smoke than harvest it and create some much-needed jobs for rural communities.” Governor Otter said, “One of the primary problems leading to gridlock in the management of federally administered lands is the complex array of statutes and regulations, some of which conflict,” and suggested a placing some National Forest lands into a state-modeled “National Forest Trust,” where federal lands could be managed with a clear “‘mission’ and ‘objectives,’” unlike federally managed lands where the “mission and objectives for management have been confused and contorted after a century of statutory and regulatory change and an unhealthy dose of judicial activism.”....more   

Wyoming may look at ways to manage federal land

Wyoming might soon eye ways the state could wrest land from the federal government a measure that echoes the decades-old Sagebrush Rebellion. House Bill 228, which provides $30,000 to pay for a study of the state’s options, awaits Gov. Matt Mead’s signature after gaining approval from the Legislature. Critics call the study and the task force that will consider it a waste of money and time. Task force members, to include lawmakers and others, would look at issues such as the loss of property tax revenues on federal lands, delays in permits because of federal laws and the management of wilderness. “The study will look at what Wyoming can do to take primacy on the management of the public lands in Wyoming,” wrote bill sponsor Rep. David Miller, R-Riverton, in an email to the Star-Tribune. The study essentially reignites the Wyoming front of the decades-old Sagebrush Rebellion, the movement from the 1960s-1980s in which many Western states tried through formal requests and state legislation to get the federal government to hand over land it owned within state borders. Miller said critics have blown concerns about the study out of proportion. “Of course their scare tactic is to say the bill is going to privatize Yellowstone and the other national parks, of course it is not,” he wrote in his email. “A simple conclusion of the study may be for the federal government to allow [oversight] by Wyoming agencies, instead of the federal government agencies. Much like we do on other issues.”...more

Utah bills keep pushing federal land transfer

A Senate panel on Monday advanced a joint resolution that presses the Utah governor and congressional delegation "to exert their utmost abilities" to convince the federal government to hand over 30 million acres of public lands to the state. SJR13 seeks to speed the implementation of last year’s Transfer of Public Lands Act, which envisions the state acquiring most of the federal land within its borders by the end of next year. But even its backers concede this might take a legal battle, but one they say is worth fighting, especially if other Western states join the struggle to "take back" public lands. "This action, if taken by the federal government, will allow Utah to provide for the education of its children, grow its economy and job opportunities, and provide for responsible management of the state’s abundant natural resources while preserving the important historic and cultural contributions that Utah’s public lands provide the citizens of Utah, the nation, and the world," the resolution claims. "This is something Utah has been asking for nicely for decades. It’s time to demand. Other states are standing with us," said Rep. Ken Ivory, R-West Jordan,addressing another land-transfer bill on Friday. Awaiting action on the House floor is HB142, which would authorize the Public Lands Policy Coordinating Office to further study how best to accomplish the transfer. This effort will cost up to $450,000, according to a fiscal note...more

Idaho Senate passes species primacy legislation

Legislation giving the state primacy over the management of its fish and wildlife and the final say on the introduction of endangered species has cleared the Senate. The Senate voted 30-4 Monday on legislation sponsored by Republican Sen. Bert Bracket of Rogerson.  Brackett said the bill would help Idaho better manage its fish, wildlife and plants. Language in the bill would make it against state policy for federal officials to introduce or reintroduce any threatened or endangered species in Idaho without state approval. The Spokesman-Review reports ( that all the "no" votes came from Democrats, including Minority Leader Michelle Stennett from Ketchum. Stennett argued that the state already has such authority and that the legislation would simply set up the state for a costly legal fight.  AP

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Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Are endangered species endangering property rights?

Such stories have circulated through legislative meetings in recent days to support bills that sponsors hope will reduce endangered species’ alleged impact on land use, reflecting the long-simmering friction between Utah’s rural communities and federal wildlife management. "This is an absolute takings, no question," Rep. Mike Noel, R-Kanab, told a House committee Friday. His HCR7, advanced by the House Natural Resources, Agriculture and Environmental Quality Committee, asks the feds to not designate any private land in San Juan County as sage grouse habitat. Conservationists argue the federal Endangered Species Act is flexible enough to balance property rights with species recovery when landowners and local officials work within the law’s framework. Utah lawmakers are also discussing Noel’s HB112, which would require county assessors to take into account the presence of federally protected plants and animals when evaluating a land’s taxable value. Noel says property owners are entitled to some relief when endangered or threatened animals such as the Utah prairie dog rears its head in an alfalfa field, proposed subdivision or golf course. "It’s your worst nightmare to have one of these show up on your property," Noel told colleagues in a recent committee hearing. Under HB112, which is awaiting action on the House floor, that relief could come in the form of a reduced evaluation, thus lowering the tax burden...more

Song Of The Day #1029

Ranch Radio this week will feature modern era practitioners of cowboy music, starting with Michael Martin Murphey performing Born To Be A Cowboy.

The tune is on his 16 track CD Cowboy Songs Four.

DHS to release thousands of illegal immigrants, blaming budget cuts

The Department of Homeland Security has started releasing hundreds of illegal immigrants held in local jails in anticipation of automatic budget cuts, in a move one Arizona sheriff called politically motivated -- and dangerous.  Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu said Tuesday that Immigration and Customs Enforcement released more than 500 detainees in his county alone over the weekend. A spokesman for Babeu told that ICE officials have said they plan to release a total of nearly 10,000 illegal immigrants.  Babeu described the move as a "mass budget pardon" and suggested the administration was going to unnecessary lengths to demonstrate the impact of the so-called sequester.  "President Obama would never release 500 criminal illegals to the streets of his hometown, yet he has no problem with releasing them in Arizona. The safety of the public is threatened and the rule of law discarded as a political tactic in this sequester battle," he said.  An ICE official confirmed the plans without specifying how many illegal immigrants might be released.   Spokeswoman Gillian Christensen said ICE had directed field offices to make sure the "detained population" is "in line with available funding." She stressed that ICE would continue to prosecute the cases while keeping them under supervision...more

White House raises terror threat, warns illegals could flood borders after sequester cuts

The Obama administration on Monday warned the nation to expect an increase in illegal immigration if the automatic budget cuts go into effect Friday — the latest caution from a White House determined to raise the heat on congressional Republicans. President Obama has framed the choice as one between higher taxes or lower security, bolstered by Homeland Security Secretary Janet A. Napolitano’s warning Monday that the U.S. Border Patrol will be forced to furlough agents, costing nearly a quarter of the workforce. “I don’t think we can maintain the same level of security,” Ms. Napolitano said. “If you have 5,000 fewer Border Patrol agents, you have 5,000 fewer Border Patrol agents.” But Republicans said the White House is setting up “a false choice” between tax increases and security. They said the other alternative is to make $85 billion in spending cuts in other parts of the budget, rather than the across-the-board cuts that make up the sequester. Indeed, Republican Senate aides said they likely will offer a plan to give the administration flexibility to protect key missions when the chamber debates the spending cut package this week. Senate Democrats have proposed a 30 percent minimum tax on the wealthy and cutting agriculture subsidies in order to head off the cuts. Neither plan is expected to pass...more

Wildfire costs could double as housing grows, report says

If Montana’s forest fringes continue filling with houses, wildland firefighting costs could double, according to a report by the Bozeman-based Headwaters Economics. “Protecting homes is a major cost and safety issue in fighting fire,” said Headwaters author Chris Mehl. “The challenge is, if we keep building these homes in the wildland-urban interface, who should bear the cost? Will localities say we’re not willing to bear the cost and you landowners must bear more? We need to look at land-use planning." Wildland firefighting strategy prioritizes human safety and structure protection above all other goals. That often means fire crews will deploy equipment and personnel to guard backcountry homes, even though the flame front may be far away. Restricting house construction in the wildland-urban interface might be a good idea, report critic Andy Stahl said, but Headwaters is using the wrong measuring stick to make its point. “It looks like Headwaters is trying to wag the dog with the tail,” said Stahl, who leads Forest Service Employees for Environmental Ethics in Eugene, Ore. “It’s trying to get Montana and other land-use jurisdictions to make housing permitting decisions on the basis of Forest Service firefighting costs, with the thought that somehow, if only Montana could control suburban sprawl, the Forest Service would spend less money on firefighting. There’s no reason to think so.” Forest Service firefighting costs have little to do with home protection, Stahl said. He pointed to the difference in firefighting expenses for Texas and California, which have comparable numbers of homes in the wildland-urban interface. Texas pays considerably less, he said. “And that’s because Texas has almost no federal or public land,” Stahl said. “So who pays for firefighting in Texas? State and local jurisdictions. Costs are not exploding in Texas, and the reason is Texas can’t print money.” Places like California and Montana that have lots of federal land administered by the Forest Service have much higher wildland firefighting bills, he said. That’s also true compared with other federal agencies, such as the Department of Interior’s Bureau of Land Management. In the past decade, Forest Service fire costs have gone from twice as expensive as Interior Department costs, to 3.5 times higher, Stahl said. “Not even the insurance industry thinks the threat of wildfire is worth placing additional premium on the wildland-urban interface,” Stahl said. “We don’t lose very many homes on the WUI from wildfire. The home loss from careless smoking dwarfs by 10 times the loss from wildland fire.”...more

Pay attention lawmakers:

He pointed to the difference in firefighting expenses for Texas and California, which have comparable numbers of homes in the wildland-urban interface. Texas pays considerably less, he said. “And that’s because Texas has almost no federal or public land,” Stahl said.

Pay attention appropriators:

In the past decade, Forest Service fire costs have gone from twice as expensive as Interior Department costs, to 3.5 times higher, Stahl said.

Wilderness: Oyster Farm Gets Temporary Reprieve

The Drakes Bay Oyster Co. can keep farming a few more months as the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit sorts out a legal challenge to a government-imposed shutdown. Three days before its lease was set to expire, the Ninth Circuit on Monday enjoined Interior Secretary Ken Salazar from evicting the company while the appellate court hears the company's legal challenge. "Appellants' emergency motion for an injunction pending appeal is granted, because there are serious legal questions and the balance of hardships tips sharply in appellants' favor," the Ninth Circuit's motions panel stated in a brief order in Drakes Bay Oyster v. Salazar, 13-15227. The court set a hearing on the merits for the week of May 13 in San Francisco. The ruling revives a hard-fought battle that has divided West Marin County, sown dissension between eco-conscious foodies and environmentalists, and galvanized conservative media outlets because it pits a small business against the federal government. Neal Desai, associate director of the National Parks Conservation Association for the Pacific region, said he believes environmentalists will be vindicated when the Ninth Circuit reaches the merits. Monday's decision, he said in a written statement, "unfortunately delays by two months the ability for Americans to enjoy their national park wilderness." Congress designated the Point Reyes National Seashore a wilderness area in 1972, but carved an exception for Drakes Estero as "potential wilderness." Potential wilderness was to be managed "as wilderness, to the extent possible, with efforts to steadily continue to remove all obstacles to the eventual conversion ... to wilderness."...more

Let's not forget Obama's nominee for Sec. of Interior sits on the board of the National Parks Conservation Association.

And where have we seen the term "potential wilderness" before?  Oh yeah, it was in former Senator Jeff Bingaman's wilderness legislation for southern NM.

Beartooth Capital restores, sells large Western ranches

Beartooth Capital is selling feel-good investment opportunities with a sporting, environmental bent. It doesn’t hurt that beautiful color photos of streams winding through tall grass, trout caught on a fly rod and vistas of blue mountains and green meadows are splashed across the firm’s promotional material, which looks and reads like a travel brochure. Beartooth Capital buys ranches, improves the properties in a variety of ways. then sells them. Investors share in the profits from the sales and other ventures the company conducts while it still owns the properties. “It’s a great way to make some money, and a fairly low-risk way to make money compared to the rest of the investment world,” said Robert Keith, 37, a co-founder of Beartooth Capital. “Most of our investors are more heavily invested in riskier investments.” Keith noted that his company isn’t doing anything new. Landowners have long restored habitat for wildlife, improved the sprinkler system to save water or updated the ranch house. The difference is that many of those owners probably don’t intend to flip their property for a profit. Working with local and national conservation groups and state and federal land management agencies, the company has also created conservation easements to ensure that landscapes are protected long after the ranch is sold. Even after Beartooth Capital sells, their former properties are still producing benefits for wildlife, many of which carry over to the public realm, said Mike Mansfield, the ranch recreation manager for Beartooth. Stream restoration, for example, provides more spawning habitat for river fish. A conservation easement that ensures that elk calving grounds are never developed means generations of elk have a place. Beartooth Capital was created by Keith and fellow “enviropreneur” Robert Palmer in 2005. They came up with the name in honor of the Beartooth Mountains that rise just north of Keith’s parents’ ranch west of Cody. The Bozeman-based company now employs 12 people, not counting ranch managers...more

Some feedlots, meatpackers closing after US ranchers sold off cattle amid widespread drought

Years of drought are reshaping the U.S. beef industry with feedlots and a major meatpacking plant closing because there are too few cattle left in the United States to support them. Some feedlots in the nation’s major cattle-producing states have already been dismantled, and others are sitting empty. Operators say they don’t expect a recovery anytime soon, with high feed prices, much of the country still in drought and a long time needed to rebuild herds. The closures are the latest ripple in the shockwave the drought sent through rural communities. Most cattle in the U.S. are sent to feedlots for final fattening before slaughter. The dwindling number of animals also is hurting meatpackers, with their much larger workforces. For consumers, the impact will be felt in grocery and restaurant bills as a smaller meat supply means higher prices. Owner Bob Podzemny has been taking apart the 32,000-head Union County Feed Yard near Clayton, N.M. It closed in 2009 when a bank shut off its operating capital in the midst of the financial crisis, and Podzemny said he doesn’t see reopening after struggling through Chapter 11 bankruptcy. “There just are not that many cattle in this part of the country no more, and it is not profitable to bring them in and feed them, so it is shut down,” Podzemny said. He’s now feeding a few cattle in another feedlot, buying them at about 450 pounds and growing them to 800 to 850 pounds. He then sells them to others who bring them to the typical 1,200- to 1,300-pound slaughter weight. “It is making a little money now on just growing feeders and selling them as feeders rather than finishing them all the way out,” Podzemny said. “We do what we got to do to survive, you know.” Cattle numbers have been falling for years as the price of corn used to feed animals in feedlots skyrocketed. The drought accelerated the process, but many feedlots were able to survive at first because ranchers whose pastures dried up weaned calves early and sent breeding cows to be fattened for slaughter. But now far fewer livestock than normal remain on the farms. And, ironically, if it rains this spring and summer, even fewer animals will go into feedlots because ranchers will hold back cows to breed and rebuild their herds...more

Dad, daughter win NM coyote killing contest

It was a family affair in another controversial coyote killing contest in southeastern New Mexico. The event was held over the weekend and was sponsored by Larry’s Discount Gun Shop and Sporting Goods in Roswell. They say several hundred people participated and the winning team was a father daughter team who killed nine coyotes, more than 100 coyotes in all were killed during the contest. The winning team took home a pair of ar-15 semi-automatic rifles. Ranchers say the coyote problems so bad there some ranchers have stopped raising sheep because the coyotes are killing them. An animal rights group is backing a bill against the killing contest to eliminate prizes. KRQE

Routt County pioneer rancher Ferry Carpenter made his own Western film to sell cattle

This is the story of how a Routt County cowboy filmed his own Western during the Great Depression. The irrepressible Farrington “Ferry” Carpenter, faced with an almost impossible market for his purebred Hereford bull calves in 1929, staged his own cowboy movie to market his beeves and discovered that it’s not so easy forcing a herd of cattle to ford a river. Carpenter became a rancher for life in his teens while apprenticed to a New Mexico cattle outfit. He did not receive a high school diploma but somehow managed to earn a degree from Princeton University and graduated from Harvard Law School, Class of 1912. Improbably, he headed west to Colorado and set up his law office in a bowling alley in Hayden. As Marshall Sprague wrote in the foreword to Carpenter’s autobiography, “Confessions of a Maverick,” Carpenter was Routt County’s attorney for eight years and spent four years as the district attorney for Routt, Moffat and Grand counties, which gave him occasion to prosecute cattle rustlers and kidnappers. He also diffused a potentially violent confrontation among cattle and sheep ranchers south of Craig. Carpenter’s fame grew when he worked in the Department of the Interior under President Franklin D. Roosevelt, where he crafted a federal grazing act. However, Carpenter’s heart remained on his ranch on the Yampa River just east of Hayden...more

Conchas Lake at historic low levels

The water level at Conchas Lake in San Miguel County is at 4,155 feet, which is 45 feet below the spillway and the lowest the lake has been since the record set in 1954 when it was at 4,155.80, said Jason Latham, Army Corp of Engineers at Conchas. It doesn't appear the lakes will be recharged anytime soon. Meteorologists with the National Weather Service in Albuquerque forecast more dry, warm weather through spring. Latham said it would take six months of continuous flow from the Conchas and South Canadian rivers — which feed the lake — to approach capacity. The diminished water levels at Conchas have had an impact on the ability of the Arch Hurley Conservancy District in Quay County to allocate water to members. Conchas is the main source of water, which is delivered to members through a series of concrete canals. The members have not received an allocation of water since 2010, which was only a partial allocation...more

Bluewater Lake Drops 1,300 Acre-Feet

Area residents need to be prepared for well below average water availability this year. This warning was part of the U.S. Department of Agriculture Natural Resources Conservation Service Feb. 1 report. Year-to-date precipitation is still well below normal at 68 percent. Storage in Bluewater Lake is down from a year ago, at 3,300 acre-feet, as compared to 4,600 acre-feet last year. This equates to 56 percent of the average storage of 5,900 acre-feet for this time, according to the hydrological report...more

Monday, February 25, 2013

NM House approves drug-testing expansion for racehorses

The state House of Representatives voted 64-0 Monday for a bill to increase drug-testing of racehorses at New Mexico tracks. Another $700,000 a year would be budgeted for testing. The state Racing Commission says it be money well spent to improve honesty in a high-profile industry. Most of New Mexico's five tracks came under heavy criticism last year in a New York Times exposé about safety problems and illegal drugs in the horse-racing industry. Rep. Candy Spence Ezzell, sponsor of the testing bill, said the state need not receive such national attention again. Ezzell, R-Roswell, said more testing would help clean up the horseracing industry. Money allocated for the program would go for pre- and post-race testing, out-of-competition testing and necropsies of fallen horses. The Racing Commission itself pushed for the bill...more

Song Of The Day #1028

It's Swingin' Monday on Ranch Radio and here's Bud Hobbs with Mean, Mean, Mean.

Cowgirl Sass & Savvy

Good stories and bad knees

 by Julie Carter

Cowboys, while being rugged individualists, have at least three things in common: a competitive spirit, the love of a good story and bad knees.

The knees are often the result of that aggressive nature and the stories most assuredly are.

One can quickly spot the cowboys without bad knees. As a rule, they are still attending high school classes. Through the years, their path can be traced through a number of orthopedic offices, culminating in the bionic replacement of body parts in later years.

That is where the stories come in.

The gimping cowboy will willingly impart the story about that sun fishing son-of-a-gun that finally got the best of him and busted up that knee.

A few of the more honest ones will admit to the limp originating with a football injury, even if that sometimes meant he fell out of the stands while watching.

Others will confess to less cowboy-like activities such as water or snow skiing or even a friendly game of Budweiser-fueled volleyball at a family reunion.

Cowboys with a horse- or cow-related limp will scoff at those embarrassing injuries and say with disdain, "It serves them right."

One particular cowboy I know has cured the limp he acquired as a young cowboy and subsequently nursed all through his adult years as a cattleman. Then he became a cowboy again and took to team roping full time. The only benefit he can get from his limp now is bragging rights to the story.

He was day-working his way through college gathering cattle in the South Texas brasada. On the day of the legendary injury, he was assigned with a corrida of vaqueros to gather a bunch of snaky brush cattle.

They had spent the long, hot day in brush that consisted mostly of stickers and close-quartered oak and mesquite trees. Just as the cattle were finally gathered up and headed to the pens, one of the bulls decided he'd rather be where he had been rather than where he was.

The cowboy in this story and one of his partners got the signal to go bring him back. The race was on. Both horses were fast and both men were hard riders. The brush was heavy and the bull thought his tail was on fire.

Our cowboy was in the lead to rope when the bull cut between two fair-size oaks. He calculated he had the one on the left cleared, shifted in the saddle to miss the one on the right.

However, the bull, the horse or the tree moved. It was never determined exactly which, and the cowboy hit the oak square on his knee. Of course, this happened as he was traveling at approximately the speed of light.
Nothing to say except in language for print "Dang, that will hurt a feller."

After the knee healed up as good as it was ever going to, what hurt the most for a long time was that the other cowboy got to rope the bull. However, the now-gimpy cowboy had a wild tale he could tell for years.
That almost made up for the bad knee.

Almost, except on cold mornings, long days in the saddle, long drives and worse yet, when there was no one around to hear the tale.

Julie can be reached for comment at

Crying Wolf

Crisis in the Southwest
Crying Wolf
When local government input is invited
By Stephen L. Wilmeth

            Charles Goodnight is an extraordinarily interesting historical figure.
            In the annals of Texas history, he sits among the most elite cattlemen, and, yet, he may have been an even better naturalist. If his life is studied before 1864, the impact wild Texas had on him was profound. He lived not just by wits, but by an innate aptitude of observation which then reflected his actions.
When the early horsemen (of which he was among the best) ventured into the wilderness of west Texas, the multifaceted dangers they faced were not just hostile Indians. If anything, the immensity of the land and the scarcity of water humbled every being. When remedies for maintaining oral moisture for days without water become conversation, something beyond endurance enters the fray.
When I stumbled onto his words describing wilderness in the presence of wolves, I was riveted. He described how the observant could discern the presence of wolves without paying attention to dust on the horizon indicating buffalo. The presence of wolves was always associated with the absence of rabbits. They killed them.
They killed them all.
New Mexico history
New Mexico placed a bounty on wolves in 1918. The bounty came from two pressing issues. The first was predation of the livestock industry and the other was something mostly forgotten in time … the dread of deadly disease transmission.
For those of us born in the ‘50s and before, many have memory of rabies beyond the lasting and debilitating punishment we endured when our parents hauled us to see the so called family friendly Disney production of Ol’ Yeller.
Mine was a rabid bobcat that came into the office trailer with Charlie Reeves at the Gila Cliff Dwellings’ trailhead. That was the first time I experienced the flawed reasoning of something yet undefined, environmentalism. A woman had to undergo rabies treatment because the ranking Park Service official refused to take the advice of a state policeman, a game warden, a Forest Service GDA, a trained biologist, and a bunch of us mere kids. He gave the diseased animal its freedom and shortly thereafter it attacked the unsuspecting woman. She never knew the animal had been trapped in the trailer, observed, declared a problem, and released. The lab results would eventually reveal the worst of all outcomes. The NPS official never faced a single consequence for his actions. He suppressed the truth.
The economics of wolves is another matter. Converted to 2007 dollars, the State of New Mexico estimated that the wolves within its borders in 1918 were causing $960,000 of loss per year. This is where the comparison of then and today becomes more interesting. The state estimated the resident wolves within its administrative boundaries at that time numbered between 40 and 50 animals. That compares to a collared population today of between 59 and 78 wolves in the recovery area of eastern Arizona and southwestern New Mexico.
The wolves of 1918 were scattered over 121,500 square miles while the admitted collared wolves of today are scattered over a supposed 5,000 square miles. That equates to a density of one wolf per 2430 sections of land in 1918, and an astounding one wolf in 64 square miles in the modern day defined recovery area. If wolves were an economic nuisance in the 1918 density, can the concentration calamity of the wolves today be comprehended?
In the collection of data running up to the 1918 offering of bounties, one wolf was known to have killed 25 head of cattle in a two month period and another was credited with 150 cattle in a six month period. If the latter rate of kill had been sustained on an annualized basis, it would equate to nearly $300,000 of cattle kills in 2013 cattle markets. That is a serious number, and, yet, indications are growing the Gila is sustaining similar atrocities.
In the six month period ending in November, 2012, at least six adult elk were known to have been killed on I10 between Deming and Lordsburg, New Mexico. What is odd about that? The area between Lordsburg and Deming is desert grasslands and sixty miles south from the elk country of the Gila and wolf recovery. Just before the end of the year, a six by six bull elk was spotted standing in mesquites on the south side of I10 at Red Mountain. The elk that are surviving are dispersing and desert environs are more alluring than the killing zone of the recovery area.
Yet another indicator is the hunting grounds now being occupied by a Gila guide. He no longer hunts in the Mogollons. He guides clients in the area south of Mule Creek in country that prior to the two decades ago hadn’t seen an elk since the Merriam subspecies was eliminated in the 19th century.
It is little wonder that truck loads of horse meat sausages, sourced in Mexico by US Fish and Wildlife (USFWS), are being required to maintain the existence of the project wolves. It is a starving, bloody comedy of imagination and errors that is only growing in hostilities and contempt for the agencies involved.
When the USFWS posted the intent to expand the recovery area into the length and breadth of all of New Mexico and Arizona and into a big swath of west Texas, those that read the announcement in the Federal Register blinked. What was the genesis of such a grand scheme and who made the decision?
As the document outlining the management plan was studied it became apparent a dictionary in double speak was needed. The reference to the Mexican gray wolf, Canis lupus baileyi was curtailed and Canis lupus, the gray wolf in generic form, was elevated. It was noted the plan did not intend to address the release of ‘captive bred wolves’ into the expansion area, but it did not preclude widespread translocation of problem wolves.
The prevailing theme was the region should not just expect, but will have increases of wolf numbers. The expansion apparently needs a management plan. Comments from local government were invited, and …the comments swirled in abundance.  
 Western … and Eastward Ho the (meat) wagons!
The response from local government across Arizona, New Mexico and Texas demonstrated such pent up and wide spread disagreement and disenchantment with the expansion the USFWS conceded and withdrew the proposed action. In a letter to New Mexico’s Colfax County, their decision was made known.
The following week, the County Commission of Arizona’s Apache County held a public meeting in Alpine on the matter. A standing room only crowd heard presenters from all three states voice opposition to any expansion and continuing frustration over the current reintroduction area. USFWS had Mexican Wolf Recovery Coordinator, Sheryl Barrett, in attendance. She declined to say anything.
The matter of double speak reappeared, though, in assessing exactly what the agency implied in the letter terminating the action. That was answered with a response from the agency’s spokesman Jonathan Olson when he acknowledged the action taken only applied to the decision to terminate the solicitation of additional local government comments. There was no intention of curtailing the planned expansion of the management area!
Therein the matter of local government again emerges as an issue of vital importance. If the agency interprets legislative requirements of working with local government to be confined to commenting on foregone decisions, those officials must realize there is a tsunami of disagreement forming across the expansion area.  
Working with local government and local land use plans is not arbitrary nor is it optional. It is one of the pillars of promise western states had in the passage of the environmental passion laws. Local government shall be part of the process … local government is not subservient to federal agencies.
It is past time to reassess the wolf recovery project. There was not a habitat or prey assessment done in the newest expansion decision, but that isn’t without precedent. There wasn’t one done in the original plan, either. In fact, if the project is studied there is a nagging realization that impetus for the project was simply the presence of the Gila, the so called ‘Yellowstone of the south’.
Prey and habitat studies will reveal the two diverse federal holdings share similarity only in size. To those who really know the Gila-Apache Blue Range Recovery Area, the decision to load 100 collared wolves into that footprint was purely arbitrary. The project failure has always reflected the absence of an adequate prey base.
History strongly supports that premise. If 40-50 wolves across the entire state of New Mexico a hundred years ago posed an economic calamity that resulted in bounties, what is the true impact of the … environmental calamity … the region now endures?

Stephen L. Wilmeth is a rancher from southern New Mexico. “A congressional hearing within the expanded recovery area is necessary. The entire program must be reassessed.”