Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Drought worsens for chile farmers

Rio Grande at Hatch (John Fleck photo)
Drought conditions have gone “from bad to worse to worst,” southern New Mexico’s chile farmers were told Monday as they braced for what looks like the worst irrigation season on record in southern New Mexico. “We’re really hurting,” said Jerry Franzoy, a member of the Elephant Butte Irrigation District’s board of directors and a third-generation chile farmer in the state’s famed Hatch Valley. Valley farmers grow a range of crops, including onions, corn and wheat. But the valley’s fame comes from its chile. Some 35 area farmers gathered Monday morning at the Hatch Community Center for the annual irrigation district growers meeting. The key message: In the third consecutive year of extreme drought, deliveries of Rio Grande water for their crops will be the lowest in nearly a century of irrigation district operations. “This is a pretty dismal prospect,” said Phil King, hydrologist for the irrigation district. Spring runoff into Elephant Butte Reservoir, the source of the farmers’ water, could be as low as 5 percent of average, King said. The resulting available water supply is the lowest since Elephant Butte operations began in 1916, according to King. “This is new territory for all of us,” he told the farmers. The Hatch farmers are not alone. Ninety-seven percent of New Mexico was classified as being in “severe drought” or worse in the most recent weekly federal Drought Monitor. Communities in northeast New Mexico have been running short of water, while on the Pecos River a legal battle has broken out between two groups of farmers over who is entitled to scarce water. Across New Mexico, the past three years have been the warmest in more than a century of record-keeping and the driest since the 1950s...more

Colorado billboard displaying gun rights message and Native Americans stirring controversy

Two billboards with a Second Amendment message and an image of Native Americans is causing a bit of uproar and controversy in Colorado and generating buzz across the Internet. The billboards show three Native American Indians dressed in traditional Native American apparel with the words, “Turn in your arms. The government will take care of you.” The billboards are displayed at two different locations in Greeley, about 60 miles north of Denver.  The billboards are managed by Lamar Advertising in Denver. An account executive with the company, Matt Wells, told The Greeley Tribune that the billboard space was purchased by a group of local residents who wanted to remain anonymous. He did not share the amount for which it was purchased either.  Some residents are livid about the billboards, although Wells states that they have not received any complaints.   Irene Vernon, a Colorado State University professor and chairwoman of the ethnic studies department, as well as a Native American, expresses that the billboard doesn’t accurately portray the sufferings that the Native American people endured. According to The Denver Post, she said that it wasn’t as if the Native Americans just gave up their guns and were moved to reservations. Well, not exactly.  In addition, not all Native Americans find the message disturbing. In fact, some find that the message is spot on. From The Denver Post forum: “I am a Navajo Indian and I am not offended by the billboard. The billboard merely points out broken promises by the U.S. government. The U.S. broke all treaties with the Native people. All Americans need to wake up — the government will take care all of us, just like they took care Native people. It all started by taking away a people’s ability to defend themselves.”...more

WWW opened to all 20 years ago today; world's first website restored

It was 20 years ago today that the World Wide Web was opened to all, setting off one of the biggest transformations in technology and altering the way we communicate. To celebrate the occasion, the creator has brought the world's first website back to life. Tim Berners-Lee, a British computer scientist, launched the world's first website in the early 1990s. The site only included text and instructions on how to use the World Wide Web, an Internet network that was designed for universities to share research. On April 30, 1993, the website was updated with a statement announcing that the source code for the World Wide Web would be available for everyone, turning "www" into a ubiquitous line for accessing the Internet...more

Landscape Conservation Cooperatives

John Stewart recently wrote:

Along with "blueways", another Dept of Interior program is flying under the radar. Check http://www.doi.gov/lcc/index.cfm
 Turns out, I am the on the Steering Committee for the Desert Landscape Conservation Cooperative. Interestingly, I am the only link on any LCC for recreation. And, there is limited local government participation in any of the LCCs.
 However, there is a heavy influence from the enviro NGO organizations.
 While there is not an overt nexus between the LCCs and water rights, the LCCs are focused on water issues and critical habitat throughout their influence regions. ------------------

John Stewart Managing Editor, www.4x4wire.com
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I had not heard of LCCs so I went to the DOI website and found the following:

Secretarial Order No. 3289 establishes Landscape Conservation Cooperatives (LCCs), a network of public-private partnerships that provide shared science to ensure the sustainability of America's land, water, wildlife and cultural resources.

Protecting the nation’s natural and cultural resources and landscapes is essential to sustaining our quality of life and economy. Native fish and wildlife species depend on healthy rivers, streams, wetlands, forests, grasslands and coastal areas in order to thrive. Managing these natural and cultural resources and landscapes, however, has become increasingly complex. Land use changes and impacts such as drought, wildfire, habitat fragmentation, contaminants, pollution, invasive species, disease and a rapidly changing climate can threaten human populations as well as native species and their habitats.

 Landscape Conservation Cooperatives (LCCs) recognize that these challenges transcend political and jurisdictional boundaries and require a more networked approach to conservation—holistic, collaborative, adaptive and grounded in science to ensure the sustainability of America's land, water, wildlife and cultural resources.

 As a collaborative, LCCs seek to identify best practices, connect efforts, identify gaps, and avoid duplication through improved conservation planning and design. Partner agencies and organizations coordinate with each other while working within their existing authorities and jurisdictions. The 22 LCCs collectively form a national network of land, water, wildlife, and cultural resource managers, scientists, and interested public and private organizations—within the U.S. and across our international borders—that share a common need for scientific information and interest in conservation.

  • Download Secretarial Order 3289

    Congressman hits Forest Service on water rights

    U.S. Rep. Scott Tipton and two witnesses at a water-rights hearing Thursday bashed the U.S. Forest Service for what they characterized as the agency’s attempts to take away private water rights. Tipton questioned Geraldine Link, director of public policy for the National Ski Areas Association, and Randy Parker, Utah Farm Bureau Federation’s chief executive officer, about ski-area water rights in a House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Water and Power hearing. The hearing, “Federal Impediments to Water Rights, Job Creation and Recreation: A Local Perspective,” did not include any witnesses from the U.S. Forest Service. The Forest Service is again trying to tie water rights to the land despite a previous loss in court. Last December, a judge ruled that the agency did not properly seek public input in issuing a directive in 2011. The directive would have forbidden ski areas from selling their water rights to anyone other than the next operator of the ski area. “The (U.S. Forest Service) justifies this policy as necessary in order to ensure that these water rights are not improperly sold off and used for other purposes, and to ensure that water is available for snowmaking and grazing,” Tipton’s office said in a news release. “Have ski-area operators been selling water downstream for more profitable uses?” Tipton asked the witnesses. No, Link said, calling the situation a “made-up problem.” Gary Derck, Purgatory at Durango Mountain Resort’s CEO, submitted written testimony for the hearing. “We believe the (U.S. Forest Service) is using their federal position to try to usurp state water law and take private water rights/supplies,” Derck wrote. “In the case of (Durango Mountain Resort), the agency’s actions have placed our resort/community in extreme jeopardy and are sequentially eliminating the critical water resources necessary to operate our resort.” In Colorado, state law says water rights are a property right. Owners can use or sell the rights as they please, provided a water court approves of the water’s uses...more

    New Interior Chief Savors a Steep Learning Curve

    Sally Jewell bounded up a granite boulder near the peak of Old Rag Mountain and turned back to her hiking companion, who was staring up at the smooth rock that offered no obvious hand- or footholds. “Trust your feet,” she said. That mountaineer’s mantra has carried Ms. Jewell through a lifetime of challenging ascents and a varied career as petroleum engineer, banker and retail executive. On April 12, she was sworn in as the 51st secretary of the interior. Ms. Jewell, 57, who has climbed Mount Rainier seven times along with some of the world’s highest peaks, said that she is happiest on the steepest part of the learning curve. A woman of untamed energy, competitiveness and confidence in the boardroom and on a mountain trail, she is undertaking perhaps the greatest challenge of her life as she assumes command of a huge bureaucracy in a city that festers barely above sea level. Like many successful corporate titans who have come to Washington before her, she will learn that running a business or a university board is not necessarily adequate training for a top government post. She noted during a five-hour round-trip hike of Old Rag, for example, that no rational business executive would cut an operating budget across the board, as the federal budget process known as the sequester requires. And she said that no matter how determined she is to spend her time promoting outdoor recreation or increasing renewable energy production, events can rudely intrude. Ms. Jewell underwent weeks of grueling briefings for what turned out to be a relatively mild Senate confirmation hearing. The toughest questions from Republicans concerned her role on the board of the National Parks Conservation Association, a mainly volunteer group that advocates for parks and park employees and that has sometimes sued the federal government. Before taking office, she spent scores of hours with senior political and career employees in a small conference room at the department headquarters in Foggy Bottom, learning the physics of oil spill containment gear, the habitat of the Gunnison sage-grouse and the politics of an obscure road-building project through the Izembek Wilderness of Alaska. She likened the experience to drinking from a fire hose...more

    Ariz. measure would preserve BLM acres

    The Pierpoints have joined a wide-ranging coalition of political groups, including Luke Air Force Base advocates, environmentalists and developers, to support a bill that would preserve more than 950,000 acres of Bureau of Land Management property, mostly in western Maricopa County. The Arizona Sonoran Desert Heritage Act of 2013 was introduced by Democratic Rep. Raúl Grijalva of Tucson on Friday, said Adam Sarvana, a spokesman for Grijalva's office. Military supporters say the bill would protect open space beneath critical military flight corridors between Luke and the Barry M. Goldwater Range. Environmentalists want the natural resources to be protected. And developers who support the proposal see economic benefit in preserving the past and wild areas as metro Phoenix grows. Among the supporters are Fighter Country Partnership, a non-profit that supports Luke Air Force Base; the Sierra Club; and developers DMB Associates and John F. Long Properties. The proposed law is also backed by West Valley mayors. The bill would add three levels of protection to the land: National Conservation Areas, Special Management Areas and Wilderness. The bill creates about 682,400 acres of National Conservation Areas, areas that have scientific, cultural, ecological, historical and recreational value. The bill would permit vehicles on designated roads and trails in conservation areas, but no additional roads could be built unless they're necessary for public safety or protecting resources. In some areas, such as Red Rock Canyon, off-roaders have improved trails. It would add about 144,000 acres in two federal Special Management Areas. This type of public land is managed to protect scenic or recreation areas and wildlife. The Sentinel Plain Special Management Area would ensure wildlife can roam between the Goldwater Range and Gila Bend National Conservation Area. The Rainbow Valley Special Management Area would allow wildlife to move between the Sierra Estrellas and the Sonoran Desert National Monument. The bill would also add 291,000 acres of new Wilderness, the highest level of federal protection. Wilderness ensures long-term protection of natural landscapes, and it protects wildlife habitat. Wilderness areas are managed to retain their primitive and wild characteristics, so vehicles are prohibited...more

    Who is Grijalva trying to fool?  He knows no legislation with 291,000 acres of new Wilderness in southern Arizona will pass during this session of Congress.  If he was really trying to provide a buffer or protection for Luke AFB he would have introduced a separate bill to accomplish that, as Senator Heinrich has done in NM.

    Coalition: States need mineral royalties

    Wyoming House Speaker Tom Lubnau has signed his name to a letter from a coalition representing lawmakers in 11 states that opposes the federal government’s withholding of some mineral royalties to energy-producing states as a result of federal budget cuts. “The Interior Department’s actions show a continued disregard of state’s rights and are designed only to maximize the negative impact on the American public by placing additional financial burdens on states,” the April 17 letter states. “The federal government is once again abdicating their responsibility and expecting states to bail them out.” The letter, which went to two congressional committees and an office in the Department of Interior, is from the Energy Producing States Coalition, of which Lubnau is immediate past chairman. “The solution is political,” Lubnau said. “And so as many political allies as we can gain, the more effective our political approach can be.” In addition to Wyoming, members of the coalition are from Alaska, Colorado, Idaho, Mississippi, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Texas, Utah and Wisconsin. Members are like-minded legislators and it’s the legislators who are members, not the states they represent, said Roger Barrus, the coalition’s chairman and a member of the Utah House of Representatives...more

    Feds release wolf pairs in NM, Arizona

    The wild population of endangered Mexican gray wolves in the Southwest is getting a boost. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Arizona Game and Fish Department have partnered to release a pair of wolves in the Apache National Forest. The male and female wolves were transported this week from a wildlife refuge in New Mexico to a holding pen in the Alpine Ranger District. Another pair of wolves is being released in southwestern New Mexico. Federal officials say the wolves were packed on the backs of specially trained mules into the Gila Wilderness on Saturday so they could be placed into a temporary holding pen. The wolves will be able to chew through the pen to leave the site. There are at least 75 Mexican gray wolves in the wild in the two states. AP

    Mexican gray wolf would stay protected

    The Mexican gray wolf would be listed as an endangered subspecies and would continue receiving federal protection even as the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service would lift such protections for gray wolves in the rest of the country, according to published reports about the draft rules. If adopted, the draft rules would represent a policy reversal for the Mexican gray wolf and would provide additional pressure on Fish and Wildlife to complete a fresh recovery plan for the lobo. Fish and Wildlife announced in October it would not provide the Mexican gray wolf with a separate listing as a subspecies. The agency said a separate listing was unnecessary because the lobo was already protected as an endangered species and that a new recovery plan was already being developed. Environmentalists say the draft rules, first reported by the Los Angeles Times and confirmed by The Associated Press, represent a setback for wolves in the rest of the country because management of wolf populations would be left up to the states. Wolves that spread into eastern Washington, Oregon or Colorado, for instance, would not be protected as endangered species under the proposed rule. Craig Miller, Southwest representative for Defenders of Wildlife, welcomed the proposal to relist Mexican gray wolves as an endangered subspecies because they “need all the protection they can get,” but said stripping federal protections for other gray wolves could increase the danger to lobos that disperse from the Southwest. That’s because it will be difficult to tell the difference between Mexican gray wolves and other, unprotected gray wolves. “The Service’s actions make protection of Mexican gray wolves much more difficult should they expand into Utah or Colorado and make it unlikely that any wolves will be able to naturally re-establish a presence in the Southern Rockies, a region with excellent suitable habitat where wolves were once found,” Miller said...more

    Feds Confirm Employee Killed Mexican Gray Wolf

    Officials have confirmed that an animal killed in January in southwestern New Mexico by a federal employee was a female Mexican gray wolf. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service made the announcement Wednesday, saying genetic tests confirmed it was a small, uncollared wolf. In January, an employee with the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Wildlife Services shot what officials described only as a "canine." The employee reported the shooting because the animal looked like a Mexican wolf after closer inspection. Federal officials have been tightlipped about the case. They have not said what prompted the employee to shoot the animal. The case has been submitted to the U.S. Attorney's Office for review. The Fish and Wildlife Service says tests are still under way to help determine the wolf's pack association. AP

    Uncertainties remain as FAA integrates drones into American skies

    Thousands of unmanned aircraft systems – commonly known as drones – could be buzzing around in U.S. airspace by 2015 because of a law passed last year, aiding in police investigations, scientific research and border control, but also raising safety and privacy concerns among some lawmakers and advocacy groups. Already, drones are in use to count sea lions in Alaska, to conduct weather and environmental research and to monitor drug trafficking across our borders. In fact, 327 drones already have been licensed by the Federal Aviation Administration to fly over U.S. soil. But the FAA expects that number to increase to 30,000 by 2020, fueling what could become a $90 billion industry. The 2012 law, called the FAA Modernization and Reform Act, contains a seven-page provision – known as the Drone Act – requiring the FAA to fully integrate unmanned aircraft into the National Airspace System by September 2015. Additionally, the Drone Act allows law enforcement agencies, including local police forces, to buy and use unmanned aircraft for evidence gathering and surveillance. Leonard Montgomery, a police captain in North Little Rock, Ark., said his department hopes to use its drones for surveillance of high-crime neighborhoods during drug investigations and other police work. Mario Mairena, spokesman for the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International, which lobbies on behalf of the drone industry, said drones can provide assistance to first responders in search and rescue missions and during or after natural or manmade disasters, and they also can aid in scientific research. Unmanned aircraft can be equipped with infrared cameras, allowing responders to identify the heat signature of a body underneath a bank of snow on a mountain or under a pile of rubble in a disaster area. Researchers are also using drones. For example, the University of Alaska-Fairbanks uses them to monitor sea lions, because the animals retreat under water when approached by larger and louder manned craft. Mairena also outlined potential commercial uses for unmanned aircraft. Farmers, he said, want to use unmanned aircraft for crop dusting and disease detection, while oil and gas companies want to use drones to inspect rigs and pipelines. Hollywood, too, wants to get its hands on unmanned aircraft to capture innovative camera shots and save money on manned aircraft costs. Unmanned aircraft already are finding homes in local police departments and other law enforcement agencies. The specific provision in the Drone Act authorizing law enforcement and other government-funded entities to use drones now, while the FAA creates final regulations for commercial use, mandates aircraft must weigh 25 pounds or less, cannot be operated higher than 400 feet above the ground or near airports and must remain within naked eyesight of the operator. Right now, law enforcement can use drones to survey anything that is visible to the human eye without a warrant, said Amie Stepanovich, counsel at the Electronic Privacy Information Center...more

    Push in Congress to protect privacy amid growth in drone use

    Some privacy advocates fear that the government could use drones for unlawful surveillance on U.S. soil. The FAA has not looked much into privacy issues – the agency has said it is ill-equipped to do so – and no current laws require federal agencies to consider privacy while regulating drones. A few members of Congress want to fill the void. Rep. Ted Poe, R-Texas, introduced the Preserving American Privacy Act in February. The bill would ban the government and law enforcement agencies from using drones to conduct surveillance on individuals or their property without obtaining a warrant, and evidence gathered without a court order would be impermissible at trials. There are exceptions for emergencies, when consent is given and when the drone is within 25 miles of the U.S. border, where many are already stationed. Another key provision explicitly bans outfitting domestic drones with firearms or other lethal weapons. There is also a built-in mechanism for Justice Department oversight. “Legitimate uses by government and private citizens do occur, but a nosy neighbor or a Big Brother government does not have the right to look into a window without legitimate cause or, in the case of the government, probable cause,” Poe said on the House floor. Privacy groups including the American Civil Liberties Union and the Electronic Privacy Information Center have supported these efforts, which they say are overdue. But there is strong opposition from the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International, the drone lobby, which claims the bills are introduced under the guise of privacy and are designed instead to debilitate their market. It spent $60,000 lobbying against the Poe bill in 2012. As U.S. involvement in overseas wars wind down, defense and aerospace corporations are shifting focus to domestic markets. Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman, whose influence with Congress is established because of their role as defense contractors, are among the companies that comprise the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International. The association represents the industry at congressional hearings, holds conferences and promotes commercial and government uses of drones – a term the industry never uses. The trade group works closely with the Congressional Unmanned Systems Caucus, formed in 2009 by Reps. Buck McKeon, R-Calif., and Henry Cuellar, D-Texas. A few dozen House members have since joined, and their stated mission is to support the industry and “rapidly develop and deploy” more systems in the United States...more

    Industry looks to use drones for commercial purposes

    The next time you feel the urge for fresh Mexican food, just look up. A taco-toting drone may be circling in the sky. Researchers at the Darwin Aerospace laboratory in San Francisco have designed the Burrito Bomber, the world’s first airborne Mexican food delivery system, which would allow customers to have food parachuted right to their doorstep. As fun as they may be to think about, such ideas aren’t likely to be realized anytime soon. The Federal Aviation Administration likely won’t decide until 2015 on the regulations to integrate burrito-bearing drones into urban airspace. But the potential of a booming domestic drone industry for commercial purposes has entrepreneurs seeing dollar signs. A far stretch from the military strikes that most people typically associate with drones, developers have begun hatching a litany of ideas for unmanned aerial systems in the commercial sphere, controlled by civilians in American skies. From conservation efforts and crop monitoring to Hollywood film-making and, of course, food delivery, experts anticipate the value of the commercial drone industry, already worth almost $14 billion per year, to skyrocket to more than $82 billion by 2025, according to Mario Mairena, government relations manager for the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International, which lobbies on behalf of the drone industry. “And that’s a conservative estimate,” Mairena said. “We’re excited about where the industry is at right now.” Although opponents decry the Big Brother-like intrusion of thousands of remote cameras roaming the sky, Mairena said the industry could create as many as 70,000 jobs in the first three years after the Federal Aviation Administration releases guidelines to integrate unmanned systems into national airspace, scheduled for 2015. A recent Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International report claims that for every year commercial drone integration into the national airspace is delayed, more than $10 billion in economic potential is lost. Chris Anderson, co-founder of drone manufacturer 3D Robotics, said he expects the commercial drone market to boom once it gets clearance to enter the skies. “Maybe the most exciting thing is that we don’t yet know all the ways this technology is going to mature,” he said. One of the most promising areas for growth in unmanned systems could be in agriculture, according to Anderson. “It’s really reshaping the way we think about farming, among other things,” Anderson said. Using camera-equipped drones to monitor crops could save money, he said, with $300 UAVs to check for disease and irrigation levels replacing $1,000-per-hour manned aircraft flyovers. “It makes American farmers that much more competitive,” he said...more

    Since Chris Anderson and his company are so fond of drones in ag, I'm sure they won't mind when OSHA, EPA and the IRS use drones to inspect and monitor their manufacturing facility.

    Immigration plan would add drones, already under scrutiny, to border security

    The bipartisan immigration proposal filed this month in the Senate would create a 24/7 surveillance system at U.S. borders that would rely significantly on increased use of drones. Under the bill, no immigrant with provisional legal status could apply for a green card if the Department of Homeland Security hasn’t effectively secured the border – a benchmark that border hawks want tied to citizenship. And to do that, the bill recommends increasing the use of unmanned aircraft, remotely controlled by crews miles away and tasked with what U.S. Customs and Border Protection has characterized as scouting out “potential terrorist and illegal cross-border missions.” Currently, the Bureau of Customs and Border Protection – an arm of the Department of Homeland Security that includes the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Division and the U.S. Border Patrol – operates 10 unarmed drones. The primary role of drones, agency officials say, is to monitor areas where on-the-ground sensors detect the movement of large animals – or people. In these situations, deploying a helicopter or light aircraft could be a waste of manpower if the movement turned out to be from non-threats like cattle. But the inclusion of drones as a part of immigration reform has drawn harsh criticism – especially because of the program’s high costs and questionable effectiveness at the border. Some say the call for more unmanned aerial vehicles in the immigration proposal amounts to nothing more than political posturing – to look tough on border security while offsetting conservative criticism over offering a path to citizenship to the 11 million living in the United States illegally. “There’s been no evidence that (drones) have protected the homeland,” said Tom Barry, director of the TransBorder Project at the Center for International Policy, a liberal Washington think tank. “It’s just a political measure to show border security credentials of the immigration reform.” For drone use and maintenance operations between 2006 and 2011, Customs and Border Protection spent $55.3 million, according to a May report by the U.S. Homeland Security Department’s inspector general. The Homeland Security Department’s inspector general has recommended that the agency stop buying drones, saying the unmanned aircrafts are costly to maintain and have flown only a fraction of their expected flight times, from bases in Arizona, Texas, Florida and North Dakota. “CBP has not adequately planned to fund unmanned aircraft-related equipment,” such as ground-control stations, ground-support equipment, cameras and navigation systems, the inspector general report said. “As a result of CBP’s insufficient funding approach, future UAS (unmanned aerial systems) missions may have to be curtailed.” Customs and Border Protection’s drone system was responsible for 143 out of 365,000 apprehensions last year on the border, less than .04 percent of those attempting to enter America illegally, an agency report for fiscal 2012 found. The drones seized 66,000 pounds of drugs – less than 3 percent of all drugs identified by border agents...more

    Monday, April 29, 2013

    Rancher takes precautions after wolves kill nearly 20 of his sheep

    Rancher Bill Hoppe nails wire to his wooden fence. He wants to move his sheep closer to the house so he can keep an eye on them at night. He hopes the wire will keep wolves out, to avoid a what he awoke to Tuesday morning. "First thing I saw was a ewe standing there, bleeding from her neck. I could see a bunch of sheep were missing, so I walked to the riverbank and all I could see were dead sheep," recalls Hoppe. Hoppe says the final count is five ewes and 14 lambs -- his grandchildren's lambs. He says that's the worst part. "The grandkids, those were their sheep, their lambs. They had a lot of them named, could catch them," explains Hoppe. Hoppe tells me he's stayed up the past two nights, keeping watch, waiting for the wolves to return. Hoppe says he now has a permit to shoot the two wolves on sight if they return to his property and he tells NBC Montana he plans to shoot any wolves that come onto his land and threaten his livestock. Hoppe's a fifth-generation Montanan and has lived in the Paradise Valley his whole life. He says he's never had a problem with wolves attacking his livestock until now. Hoppe says times have changed in the last 25 years and blames mismanagement and special interest groups that get in the way of controlling the population...more  

    And so what do the enviros say?  

    "Anyone in the sheep business knows it's not a good place to raise sheep," says Alliance for the Wild Rockies' Steve Kelly. Kelly argues there are better ways and better places to manage his livestock.

    The Hoppe family has been around for five generations, but this guy comes hippity skipping in with the the audacity to tell him how to run his business and doesn't give a twit about the grandkid's sheep.  Somebody needs to tell Kelly the Paradise Valley is "not a good place to raise" little enviros.  There are "better places", although I can't think of one right now. 

    Is this what Kelly would tell the people of Boston?  Just clear out and let the radical Chechens have the run of the place? 

    The Two Faces of Sally Jewell

    U.S. Interior Department Secretary Sally Jewell went green with one of her first formal moves in the White House last week when she announced her department would be the first in line for new hybrid vehicles for its fleet. The former chief executive at outdoor retailer Recreational Equipment Inc. said doing so made good business sense in a way that also advanced a federal low-carbon footprint. When President Obama introduced her to the nation in February, he said she knew there was no contradiction between economic and environmental action. Her move on hybrids adds to that sentiment. The next day, however, she announced plans for a lease sale in the Gulf of Mexico, showing she has both faces needed for Obama's "all-of-the-above" energy policy. Jewell last week said the Interior Department would partner with the General Services Administration's vehicle initiative by replacing as many as 300 gasoline- and alternative-fueled vehicles with hybrids.  That represents about 30 percent of the department's fleet and is "simply a good business decision that will benefit not only our bottom line, but reduce our carbon emissions as well," she said...more

    Editorial: Huffman wants to make sure Pt. Reyes promises to ranchers are kept

    REP. JARED HUFFMAN is absolutely right to make sure that a promise made to ranchers in the Point Reyes National Seashore doesn't fall through the political cracks. In November, when Interior Secretary Kenneth Salazar announced the end of the oyster farm's longstanding park lease, he also promised to provide the patchwork of ranches in the park greater long-term security. Salazar is retiring and his successors don't have to keep his promise. Huffman needs to use his office to make sure that Salazar's promise becomes policy, a legal commitment rather than a political pledge. The ranches deserve that security. Many are worried that if the Lunny family's popular oyster operation is forced to close, the ranches will be next. There have been environmental activists who have said that's their plan. Huffman knows the importance of the park's ranches to the economic viability of Marin agricultural industry. Those ranches make up about one-fourth of Marin's agricultural production. Huffman, who has carefully steered clear of the oyster controversy, is stepping up to the plate for the ranchers. He says they should be assured that their longstanding leases are strengthened to "maintain a viable agricultural community in West Marin in perpetuity." When the park was created, the National Park Service bought the historic ranches with the promise to lease the land and agricultural rights back to the ranchers. It has done that, but ranchers say they need longer-term leases and fewer restrictions. Longer leases are critical to ranchers' plans to invest. That's what Huffman hopes to secure. In November, Salazar stressed the fate of the oyster farm and the park's ranches are "separate issues." He directed the park service to extend agricultural permits for 10 years to 20 years, providing ranchers with greater certainty. While we'd like to see Huffman exercise his leadership in settling the seething political and legal battle over the oyster farm, his joining of debate over the park's ranches is welcome...more

    The oyster farm was within a wilderness area inside the Point Reyes National Seashore. Are the ranches also inside the wilderness area? If so, that 20 year lease becomes very interesting.

    Cattle producers appalled that EPA releases personal information on farmers, ranchers

    Kansas Cattlemen’s Association recently learned the Environmental Protection Agency released farmers and ranchers personal information to a number of environmental activist groups. This sensitive information, the EPA acknowledged, could have been withheld and kept private. Yet, approximately 80,000 producers’ personal information has been released to Earth Justice, the Natural Resources Defense Council and the Pew Charitable Trust. According to its website, “NRDC is the nation’s most effective environmental action group, combining the grassroots power of 1.3 million members and online activists with the courtroom clout and expertise of more than 350 lawyers, scientists and other professionals. The New York Times calls us “One of the nation’s most powerful environmental groups.” Earth Justice was founded in 1971 as the Sierra Club Legal Defense Fund. After Congressional backlash, the EPA rescinded its compliance with the activists and asked each group to return the information. “These have been considered extremists groups. The information included people’s home addresses, and even if the EPA asked for the information back, it is already out there. What is troublesome is that the EPA was not required to give out all of this personal information, and they chose to do so, putting the safety of farmers and ranchers and their families at risk,” said KCA Executive Director Brandy Carter. “This information wasn’t on just big business; it was a number of family operations from 29 different states. The EPA has a history of overreaching its authority, and this is another example of inappropriate behavior from an administrative department that needs to be reined it.”...more

    Sunday, April 28, 2013

    George Jones' funeral will be open to the public

    The funeral for country singer George Jones, who died Friday morning at age 81, will take place Thursday at the Grand Ole Opry House in Nashville, and will be open to the public. "George would have wanted his fans and friends everywhere to be able to come and pay their respects along with his family," publicist Kirt Webster said Sunday in a media release. In the same release, Jones' widow, Nancy, said, "Thanks to George's friends, fans, and loved ones for the outpouring of love at this terrible time. I love you all." Thursday's service will begin at 10 a.m. Central time. A private visitation for family, friends and fellow performers will take place Wednesday evening. In lieu of flowers, the family has asked that contributions be made to the Grand Ole Opry Trust Fund. Jones joined the Grand Ole Opry in 1956. He last performed on the show in October 2010, though he celebrated his 80th birthday there in 2011, as singers including Lee Ann Womack, Jamey Johnson and Joe Diffie performed his songs. The Opry shows over the weekend were dedicated to the late singer, with Brad Paisley, Mel Tillis, Montgomery Gentry and Jason Crabb performing his songs and sharing their memories of him...more

    Cowgirl Sass & Savvy

    Lessons in the brush

    by Julie Carter

    Multitasking is a buzzword used to describe the skill of doing several things simultaneously. Cowboys are frequent multitaskers, especially when combining a little fun with their work.

    Jess routinely worked at his own brand of multitasking. This particular day, he was doctoring fresh yearlings and riding a green-broke colt -- always a recipe for a little excitement.

    The big blue roan colt had kind eyes, a solid-built frame, long legs and a good heart. What he didn't have was any experience with cattle, a rope or a cowboy.

    Jess was riding a brush pasture that bordered the Canadian River. The Panhandle has plenty of good grass under the mesquites and, in summer, the mesquite will yield a good crop of mesquite beans that pack the fat and sass on cattle and horses.

    The colt, bought in early spring, would be a finished cow horse by first frost. That would put a little extra jingle in Jess' pockets beyond his cowboy wages. The plan was coming together.

    Jess plow-reined the blue colt around mesquites and over downed cedars, teaching him how to place his feet. While the training was in progress, he watched for sick cattle lying out away from the herd.

    The sick ones were roped slow and easy and then doctored. All the while, the colt was learning those skills under the quiet hands of the cowboy. Jess got to feeling quite confident in his new horse about the same time he got tired of roping sick yearlings around the neck.

    His thoughts wandered to the upcoming team roping in town and his need for practice at roping cattle with horns. Coincidentally, a big, coming 3-year-old heifer showed up on his radar. She had either been missed in the previous pasture gathers or had walked the river and taken up residence with the yearlings.

    She had a nice spread of horns and to Jess' way of thinking, that would put the finishing touch on a good day for the colt.

    He built a loop and with a touch of his spur to his horse, he rode up on the heifer and roped her handily. He set the colt, stopped the heifer, dropped his rope down her right side and proceeded with some cowboy rope magic to put a half hitch on her back feet and lay her down.

    Holding her back feet tight, he rode up on the heifer, reached down and took his rope off her horns. About that time, in rapid succession, the heifer came straight up, the colt went straight to the left, and Jess found himself standing on the ground with a heifer on the fight and a scared colt.

    The heifer had never been roped and the colt had never seen a rope lying on the ground. The heifer's genetic make-up included plenty of Mexican fighting-bull blood so she chased Jess around a mesquite while the colt eyed the rope like it was a monster. The colt didn't run, but he thought about it.

    Eventually, the heifer got tired of the chase and walked off a little ways to catch her breath. Jess began easing up to the colt so as not to scare him off as headquarters was a long walk back.

    About the time Jess got close to his horse, the heifer got a new burst of “mad” and charged him around the mesquite a few more times. She repeated this for two hours. Finally, she walked off far enough for Jess to catch his colt, coil up the rope and get mounted.

    Jess decided his next multitasking would include riding quietly back to headquarters and doing his roping practice in the arena.

    It was obvious the lesson for the day was his.

    Julie can be reached for comment at jcarternm@live.com.

    The Antiquities Act: Preservation Without Representation

    By Stephen L. Wilmeth

    New Mexico wasn’t the ideal candidate for admission into the lofty social realm of the United States.

    Much trepidation ensued before statehood was granted in 1912. There was concern the territory’s lower caste society was incapable of governing itself. After all, it was made up of remnant Native Americans, Mexican peons, known outlaws, unkempt townsfolk, suspect drifters, and migrant Texans.

    In order to assure Congress it was grounded, the enabling legislation set aside lands for the sole purpose of educating its uncouth youth. Sections 2, 16, 32, and 36 of each Township were deeded to the state for the purpose of revenue generation for educational funding. That checkerboard administrative nightmare set the stage for government dominion that was never checked.

    It only got worse when the federal government abrogated its Constitutional responsibility to dispose of lands within the states for the purpose of debt reduction and stimulating the economy.

    Environmentalism cometh

    The environmental movement isn’t new.

    It appeared years ago when society provided enough leisure dole to allow the pursuit of scientific reviews. The phenomenon occurred in earnest in the 1880’s. That is when the literature began forewarning that bureaucrats and the academic community were becoming concerned about the loss of ‘antiquities’ on public lands.

    The movement grew roots when President Benjamin Harrison established the first timberland reserves under the General Land Office (GLO). The voice in the American wilderness at that time was Dr. Thomas Wilson who collaborated with an Interior attorney to convince a congressman he held the key for preserving arrowheads and pottery shards.

    Unbeknownst to the professor, the GLO had its own idea about preserving such sites. Disappointing to them, many of those lands weren’t under their 46 million acre forest purview. All they could do was to convince Congress to create a national park (Yellowstone had been created in 1872).

    The problem was that path was an agonizingly slow, unwieldy process. In order to save those features ‘before they were lost’, something more nimble had to be created.

    The GLO Commissioners, Binger Hermann and his successor, W.A. Richards, conceived the idea of getting Congress to give the president a tool to fast track that protection into their authority.

    In February, 1900 the first legislative attempt was made. Problems arose. Westerners didn’t agree those special places were so important and they didn’t want to give the president authority to act on parcels of land that exceeded 320 acres. They sent a clear signal. Any lands considered for preservation over a half section would be debated in Congress.

    The next hurdle arose when Gifford Pinchot, in a similar agency manipulation, convinced Congress to move all the forest reserves to the Department of Agriculture. The empire builders over at Interior lost their inside opportunity to put the United States into the cultural preservation business.

    Enter the next golden haired environmental planner. His name was Edgar Lee Hewett. Hewett was an archeologist. He recognized the stumbling block created by the parcel sizes. He addressed the issue by crafting wording that all such designations “shall be confined to the smallest area compatible with the proper care and management of the objects.”

    John Lacey of Iowa was sought to carry the bill. Lacey convinced the skeptical westerners that the purpose of the bill was “to preserve these old objects … the cave dwellers and the cliff dwellers.” With his influence, the Antiquities Act was passed in June, 1906.

    Four months later the very promise Lacey had made was breached when Teddy Roosevelt used his new authority naming Devils Tower in northeastern Wyoming as the nation’s first monument.

    Preservation without Representation

    John Lacey stands out in the preservation annals as the archetype of leaders who have no hint of the meaning of states’ rights. He was willing to make landmark land designation decisions just as long as it didn’t impact his state. By the time a national monument was designated in Iowa, 83 other national monuments were created by his legislation. He never suggested or backed a single designation in his own backyard.

    The precedent was set in the West. Three states caught most of the Roosevelt attention. They were California, Arizona, and New Mexico.

    The willingness of California to endure constitutional perversion by the President remains a matter of historical curiosity, but the ability of Arizona and New Mexico to defend themselves was another matter. They didn’t have congressional representation. They were not yet extended statehood. Congress was still debating the wisdom of inviting that society of smelly aborigines and ne’er-do-wells to the union!

    The practice of preservation without representation was discovered. It continues today.

    Roosevelt opened the floodgates and ignored any notion of the promise of ‘smallest area compatible with proper care’. In a tiff with Congress, he boldly converted 800,000 acres of the Grand Canyon into a national monument in 1908. He used the excuse of scientific value in the act as his authority. Arizona watched incredulously without any congressional defense.

    There was a firestorm of western response, but no legislative action was taken. The damage was done. The breach had been created and precedent had been set.

    Noting that, Roosevelt expanded the breach by proclaiming 615,000 acres of Washington’s Olympic Peninsula as Mount Olympus National Monument. Unlike the domination of tourism at the Grand Canyon, that monument had protesters in the form of mining and timber interests. They were the Americans who coined the term “lock-up” when referring to federal land grabs.

    They continued to object to the size and scope of the land grab into the Wilson administration, but that new age progressive aided in the expanding assault by refusing to challenge the actions taken by his predecessor. In affect, he blessed the actions and initiated a fraternity courtesy toward administrative fiat on matters of what we must now describe as presidential environmental dabbling … the pass time of executive privilege.

    In the history of the Antiquities Act, there is a common theme. As the distance increases away from the original 13 colonies, presidents tend to get bolder and schemes get grander. With recent Obama designations, seven of the original colonies now have a monument. There are 11 Antiquity monuments in those states, and, without exception, they fit the model of ‘smallest area compatible with proper care …” They comprise forts, a canal, Edison’s lab, an ‘African’ burial ground, Governors Island Castle, Father Millet’s cross, and, most recently, an underground railroad. There is not a single grand land scheme.

    On the other hand, five states out west are impacted by 60% of the designations. Alaska, California, Arizona, Utah, and New Mexico together have 80 of these Antiquity wonders. New Mexico emerged as the state with the most examples of what John Lacey promised about the preservation of “those old cliff dwellers …”

    Alaska has endured the greatest burden of the land based designations. After Congress adjourned in 1978, Jimmy Carter used his authority to ‘lock-up’ over 56 million acres of Alaska in 15 separate monument designations. Those lands were set to be offered back to the state for the purpose of homesteading and other claims. In time honored fashion, the secretary of Interior, in this case Cecil Andrus, convinced Carter he had to save those lands from the scourge of the citizenry.

    Rightfully, Alaska was appalled.

    The state’s senators offered legislation to scale the travesty back, but, ultimately, the state couldn’t prevail. What they did get was a legislative preclusion of any future presidential designations.

    Wyoming scored a similar agreement. In a move to accept Jackson Hole private lands from one of his Gold Coast confederates, John D. Rockefeller, Jr., Roosevelt unleashed the wrath of the state. He vetoed the bill passed to abolish his actions. Congress finally intervened in 1950 moving the monument into Grand Teton National Park with the agreement that Wyoming would never again face such unilateral action.

    The beat goes on

    In southwestern New Mexico, that portion of the state where government ownership of lands equates to 87% of the landscape, yet another demand for national monument unmercifully plods along. This time a total of 600,000 acres of Dona Ana County is being subjected to the newest generation of environmental fervor ‘to save the lands’. In the planning led by membership of the county’s progressive county commission, city council, and professional wilderness lobbyists, not a single citizen who has duties, responsibilities, or investments on the land targeted got invited to the discussion. It was obvious greater plans can not be burdened by common needs.

    In response, the district’s Congressman, Steve Pearce, offered legislation to finally correct the abuse of the Antiquities Act. The local liberal press hammered him.

    “Nixing 100 years of Protection” the headline read.

    It should have read …“Nixing 100 years of tyranny”

    Stephen L. Wilmeth is a rancher from southern New Mexico. “Whoever invited Roosevelt to southwestern New Mexico to hunt bears and lions ought to be exhumed and shot again!”

    Commentary: 'The Big Worry' (Sally Jewell)

    The industry that produces food for America’s dinner table is worried. Worried that Sally Jewell, the incoming head of the Department of Interior, will be as uncompromising and one-sided as her predecessors, Ken Salazar and Bruce Babbitt. Farmers and ranchers will watch Jewell closely, because, simply put, her leadership will have a direct impact on what consumers pay at the supermarket.

    The situation is not a case of “Chicken Little,” according to an analysis in the Summer 2013 issue of RANGE magazine, an award-winning publication devoted to issues that affect ranchers, outdoorsmen and wildlife.
    No stranger to controversy, for more than 20 years RANGE has been the outspoken advocate for people who live and work on the land — people who are skittish because of a long history of antagonism, particularly with the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service and the Bureau of Land Management.

    “No matter what, Sally Jewell is a skilled navigator of corporate bureaucracy, and pretty darn savvy at political engineering, too,” writes Dave Skinner, a Montana environmental expert. “But her history of involvement with public-lands issues is primarily that of urban recreational users, who view public lands strictly as weekend playgrounds.” In meticulous detail, Skinner lays out Jewell’s background and financial connections.

    Jewell has no personal history of being directly or overly hostile to the traditional economic multiple uses, such as grazing and access to the public lands that support food production, he writes. “However, she’s never shown any friendship or interest, either, which leaves the question: How will a weekend warrior like Sally Jewell manage the rest of the week on America’s public lands?”

    A digital version of the Sally Jewell analysis. “No Hat, No Cattle,” can be found by visiting  www.rangemagazine.com.

    Native American Reservations: “Socialist Archipelago”


    Imagine a country that has a corrupt authoritarian government. In that country no one knows about checks and balances or an independent court system. Private property is not recognized in that country either. Neither can one buy or sell land. And businesses are reluctant to bring investments into this country. Those who have jobs usually work for the public sector. Those who don’t have jobs subsist on entitlements that provide basic food. At the same time, this country sports a free health care system and free access to education. Can you guess what country it is? It could be the former Soviet Union, Cuba, or any other socialist country of the past.
    Yet, I want to assure you that such a country exists right here in the United States. And its name is Indian Country. Indian Country is a generic metaphor that writers and scholars use to refer to the archipelago of 310 Native American reservations, which occupy 2 percent of the U.S. soil. Scattered all over the United States, these sheltered land enclaves are held in trust by the federal government. So legally, many of these land enclaves are a federal property. So there you cannot freely buy and sell land or use it as collateral. On top of this, since the Indian tribes are wards of the federal government, one cannot sue them for breach of contract. Indian reservations are communally used by Indian groups and subsidized by the BIA (the Bureau of Indian Affairs, Department of the Interior) with a current annual budget of about $3 billion dollars.        Besides being a major financial resource that sustains the reservation system, BIA’s goal is also to safeguard indigenous communities, or, in other words, to make sure that they would never fail when dealing with the “outside” society. People in the government and many Native American leaders naÏvely believe that it is good for the well-being of the Indians to be segregated and sheltered from the rest of American society.
    This peculiar trust status of Indian Country, where private property rights are insecure, scares away businesses and investors.[1] They consider these forbidden grounds high risk areas. So, in Indian Country, we have an extreme case of what Robert Higgs famously labeled “regime uncertainty” that retards economic development.[2] In fact, this “regime uncertainty” borders on socialism. James Watt, Secretary of the Interior in the first Reagan administration, was the first to publicly state this. In 1983, he said (and then dearly paid for this), “If you want an example of the failure of socialism, don't go to Russia, come to America and go to the Indian reservations.”[3] ...
     Before we proceed, I will give you some statistics. Native Americans receive more federal subsides than anybody else in the United States. This includes subsidized housing, health, education, and direct food aid. Yet, despite the uninterrupted flow of federal funds, they are the poorest group in the country. The poverty level on many reservations ranges between 38 and 63 percent (up to 82 percent on some reservations),[4] and half of all the jobs are usually in the public sector.[5] This is before the crisis of 2008! You don’t have to have a Ph.D. in economics to figure out that one of the major sources of this situation is a systemic failure of the federal Indian policies.
    These policies were set in motion during the New Deal by John Collier, a Columbia-educated social worker, community organizer, and utopian dreamer who was in charge of the Native American administration during FDR’s entire administration. English Fabian socialism, the anarchism of Peter Kropotkin, communal village reforms conducted by the Mexican socialist government, and the romantic vision of Indian cultures were the chief sources of his intellectual inspiration. Collier dreamed about building up what he called Red Atlantis, an idyllic Native American commonwealth that would bring together modernization and tribal collectivism. He expected that this experiment in collective living would not only benefit the Native Americans but would also become a social laboratory for the rest of the world. The backbone of his experiment was setting up so-called tribal governments on reservations, which received the status of public corporations. Collier envisioned them as Indian autonomies that would distribute funds, sponsor public works, and set up cooperatives. In reality, financed by the BIA, these local governments began to act as local extensions of its bureaucracy.
    For example, in the rest of the United States, municipalities and counties do not own restaurants, resorts, motels, casinos, and factories. In Indian Country, by contrast, it became standard practice since the New Deal. By their status, these tribal governments are more interested in distributing jobs and funds than in making a profit. As a result, many enterprises set up on reservations have been subsidized by the government for decades. Under normal circumstances, these ventures would have gone bankrupt. This system that was set up in the 1930s represents a financial “black hole” that sucks in and wastes tremendous resources in the name of Native American sovereignty.

    Does Climate Change Worry You? How About Insurance To Cover Its Consequences?

    by Terry Anderson Dino Falaschetti

    With private investment in green energy down 34 percent between 2011 and 2012, proponents of subsidies for R&D struggle to make their case. For example, former Secretary of State George Shultz recently defended subsidies as a necessary “insurance policy” against the catastrophic consequences of climate change.
    Mr. Shultz is correct in calling for insurance against climate change, but green energy is not insurance. Green energy might reduce the rate of carbon emissions, but according to physics Nobel laureate, Robert Laughlin, the likely risk reduction is small: “The geologic record suggests that climate ought not to concern us too much . . . because it is beyond our power to control.” In this light, clamoring for green energy subsidies is equivalent to talking about the weather without doing anything about it.
    Insurance policies that diversify climate risk, on the other hand, can help us adapt on a planet that may have a climate mind of its own. Insurance policies don’t change risk; they diversify it so that those experiencing catastrophic losses receive compensation from an insurance pool that includes those who do not.
    Consider the case of hurricane insurance. Companies make a profit by carefully calculating risks and charging enough in premiums to cover damages. If hurricane frequency increases with atmospheric carbon levels, market pressures will push up premiums, strengthening the incentive for people to move out of harm’s way.
    Insurance markets also incentivize entrepreneurs to create better ways of managing climate risks. For example, WeatherFlow Inc. has blanketed the hurricane prone southeast with reliable private weather stations. Access to data from these stations has allowed Risk Management Solutions (RMS) to design a new type of catastrophe or “cat” bond.
    Unlike relief from insurance, which requires wrangling over the cause and extent of hurricane damage, cat bonds offer relief as soon as wind velocity reaches a mutually agreed upon and easily verified speed. According to WeatherFlow and RMS, the “insured is paid days after the event rather than waiting for months to settle a claim.”
    Is it too farfetched to think we could purchase cat bonds for endangered species? The Nature Conservancy (TNC), for example, holds conservation easements on millions of acres for the purpose of protecting endangered species. If climate changes the habitat, TNC may be holding easements that no longer produce what it wants. By purchasing a cat bond triggered by a pre-specified habitat change, TNC could have funds useful for securing easements on land with more valuable habitat.
    When, where, and how much rain will fall is as important as what happens to global temperatures, and financial markets can help manage water-related risk, too. Exchange-traded weather derivatives, offered by CME Group, for example, can lower the cost of insuring against unexpected changes in moisture or temperature. Ski resorts might use these securities to hedge against low snowfall and farmers against drought.
    Cities, such as Los Angeles and Las Vegas, and businesses, such as soft drink producers, require dependable water supplies. They can purchase weather derivatives or exchange traded funds, like those that track the NASDAQ OMX US Water Index, to hedge against the risks of varying water supplies.
    If more carbon means more weather variance, and more weather variance means more assets at risk, weather-related financial instruments provide a way of spreading risk while allowing us to to enjoy the benefits of carbon-based fuel. When it comes to climate change, enviro-finance entrepreneurs don’t just talk about the weather; they do something about it.


    Draft rule ends protections for gray wolves

    Federal wildlife officials have drafted plans to lift protections for gray wolves across the Lower 48 states, a move that could end a decades-long recovery effort that has restored the animals but only in parts of their historic range. The draft U.S. Department of Interior rule obtained by The Associated Press contends the roughly 6,000 wolves now living in the Northern Rockies and Great Lakes are enough to prevent the species' extinction. The agency says having gray wolves elsewhere—such as the West Coast, parts of New England and elsewhere in the Rockies—is unnecessary for their long-term survival. A small population of Mexican wolves in the Southwest would continue to receive federal protections, as a distinct subspecies of the gray wolf. The loss of federal protections would be welcomed by ranchers and others in the agriculture industry, whose stock at times become prey for hungry wolf packs. Yet wildlife advocates say the proposal threatens to cut short the gray wolf's dramatic recovery from widespread extermination. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said Friday the rule was under review and would be published in the Federal Register and opened to public comment before a final decision is made. If the rule is enacted, it would transfer control of wolves to state wildlife agencies by removing them from the federal list of endangered species. The government has been considering such a move since at least 2011, but previously held off given concerns among scientists and wildlife advocates who warn it could effectively halt the species' expansion...more

    Gun Control Advocates Revel in Obama's Economic War on Guns

    As gun control advocates cheered GE Captial's decision to cease business with gun stores, President Obama's economic war on the gun industry came into full view.  While Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) supports legislation to dry up the supply of firearms in this country, Obama and company are working behind the scenes to dry up the capital needed to make firearms and operate firearms related businesses. We began seeing this in January when Obama's right hand man, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, began pressuring Bank of America (BA) and TD Bank to quit doing business with gun manufacturers. Although BA was eventually shamed into reversing course, the impetus for their action was clear. Now that GE Capital has followed suit, gun control advocates are cheering their victory.  But other businesses are feeling the pressure as Obama, Democrats, and gun-control advocates attempt to turn Smith & Wesson and Glock into the equivalent of Marlboro or Winston cigarette manufacturers. Comcast Cable, for example, announced a ban on all firearm and ammunition advertisers in March...more

    Study: Adoption of GM Crops Has Environmental, Cost Benefits

    Crop biotechnology has boosted farm income and provided significant environmental benefits over the past 16 years of widespread adoption, according to a new research paper by European ag economics consultancy PG Economics. The report, "GM crops: global socio-economic and environmental impacts 1996-2011" was released this week in Chicago at the BIO International Convention. "Where farmers have been given the choice of growing GM crops, adoption levels have typically been rapid," said Graham Brookes, co-author of the report. He notes that high adoption levels are due to economic benefits – an average of over $130 per hectare in 2011, according to the study. For the 16-year period covered in the report, the global farm income gain due to biotech was calculated at $98.2 billion. Fewer inputs Of the total farm income benefit, $48 billion has been due to yield gains resulting from lower pest and weed pressure and improved genetics, with the balance arising from reductions in the cost of production. In 2011 alone, the net economic benefit at the farm level was $19.8 billion, the study reports. "The environment is also benefiting as farmers increasingly adopt conservation tillage practices, build their weed management practices around more benign herbicides and replace insecticide use with insect resistant GM crops," Brookes said. He concluded that reduction in pesticide spraying and the switch to no till cropping systems is continuing to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture. GHGs have decreased, the study says, because of less fuel use and additional soil carbon storage from reduced tillage with GM crops. In 2011, this was equivalent to removing 23 billion kg of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere – or 10.2 million cars from the road for one year, the study equates...more

    NY Times - U.S. Opens Spigot After Farmers Claim Discrimination

    In the winter of 2010, after a decade of defending the government against bias claims by Hispanic and female farmers, Justice Department lawyers seemed to have victory within their grasp.  Ever since the Clinton administration agreed in 1999 to make $50,000 payments to thousands of black farmers, the Hispanics and women had been clamoring in courtrooms and in Congress for the same deal. They argued, as the African-Americans had, that biased federal loan officers had systematically thwarted their attempts to borrow money to farm.  But a succession of courts — and finally the Supreme Court — had rebuffed their pleas. Instead of an army of potential claimants, the government faced just 91 plaintiffs. Those cases, the government lawyers figured, could be dispatched at limited cost.  They were wrong.  On the heels of the Supreme Court’s ruling, interviews and records show, the Obama administration’s political appointees at the Justice and Agriculture Departments engineered a stunning turnabout: they committed $1.33 billion to compensate not just the 91 plaintiffs but thousands of Hispanic and female farmers who had never claimed bias in court.  The deal, several current and former government officials said, was fashioned in White House meetings despite the vehement objections — until now undisclosed — of career lawyers and agency officials who had argued that there was no credible evidence of widespread discrimination. What is more, some protested, the template for the deal — the $50,000 payouts to black farmers — had proved a magnet for fraud.  “I think a lot of people were disappointed,” said J. Michael Kelly, who retired last year as the Agriculture Department’s associate general counsel. “You can’t spend a lot of years trying to defend those cases honestly, then have the tables turned on you and not question the wisdom of settling them in a broad sweep.”  Yet those concerns were played down as the compensation effort grew. Though the government has started requiring more evidence to support some claims, even now people who say they were unfairly denied loans can collect up to $50,000 with little documentation The compensation effort sprang from a desire to redress what the government and a federal judge agreed was a painful legacy of bias against African-Americans by the Agriculture Department. But an examination by The New York Times shows that it became a runaway train, driven by racial politics, pressure from influential members of Congress and law firms that stand to gain more than $130 million in fees. In the past five years, it has grown to encompass a second group of African-Americans as well as Hispanic, female and Native American farmers. In all, more than 90,000 people have filed claims. The total cost could top $4.4 billion.  From the start, the claims process prompted allegations of widespread fraud and criticism that its very design encouraged people to lie: because relatively few records remained to verify accusations, claimants were not required to present documentary evidence that they had been unfairly treated or had even tried to farm. Agriculture Department reviewers found reams of suspicious claims, from nursery-school-age children and pockets of urban dwellers, sometimes in the same handwriting with nearly identical accounts of discrimination...more

    Saturday, April 27, 2013

    Endangered Species Act lawsuit dismissed

    The U.S. District Court of Northern California granted motions brought by both CropLife America (CLA) and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to dismiss the lawsuit Center for Biological Diversity and Pesticide Action Network North America v. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). U.S. District Judge Joseph C. Spero presided over the hearings in the Endangered Species Act (ESA) “Mega” lawsuit and ruled that plaintiffs had not alleged specific government actions sufficient for the lawsuit to proceed. Plaintiffs have 30 days to file an amended complaint in accordance with the court’s order, or 60 days to appeal to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. The plaintiffs sought to restrict the use of valuable crop protection and public health products for American farmers and consumers by alleging that the existing and long-standing registration of more than 380 chemicals may negatively impact 214 species in 49 states. If the court had agreed to the full demands of the plaintiffs, agriculture and public health protection in the U.S. would have been drastically and negatively altered by attempts to impede pesticide registrations established under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA)...more

    George Jones, Country Music Hall of Famer and master of sad ballads, dies at age 81

    “The King of Broken Hearts” just broke many more. Country Music Hall of Famer George Jones, a master of sad country ballads whose voice held the bracing power, the sweetness and the burn of an evening’s final pull from a bourbon bottle, died Friday at 5:22 a.m. at Vanderbilt University Medical Center. He was 81, and was often called the greatest male vocalist in country music history.
    “He is the spirit of country music, plain and simple,” wrote country scholar Nick Tosches.
    George Glenn Jones was dubbed “The Possum” because of his marsupial resemblance, and later called “No Show Jones” because of his mid-career propensity for missing stage appointments. Those monikers seem trifling in comparison to “The King of Broken Hearts,” which became the title of a Jim Lauderdale-written tribute recorded by George Strait and Lee Ann Womack. Lauderdale was inspired by country-rock forerunner Gram Parsons, who would play Mr. Jones’ albums at parties and silence the room with an admonition to listen to the King of Broken Hearts...

    Guitar becomes lifeline

    Born in Saratoga, Texas, on Sept. 12, 1931, Mr. Jones grew up hard. His father was an alcoholic prone to drunken anger, but he bought his son a mail-order catalogue guitar that turned out to be a lifeline.
    “After my dad got me my first little guitar, I wouldn’t lay it down, hardly,” Mr. Jones told The Tennessean. “I took it to school with me. I’d hide it in the woods and cover it with leaves, and if a big rain came and it got wet, I’d pour the water out of it. Them guitars never warped.”
    By 15, Mr. Jones was playing and singing on the streets of Beaumont, Texas.
    “A lot of them started throwing change down in front of me, down on the concrete,” he said. “When I was done, I counted it and it was $24 and something, and that was more money than I’d ever seen in my life.”
    With his initial earnings, Mr. Jones went to a penny arcade, bought candy and played pinball. He married Dorothy Bonvillon in 1950, and divorced a year later. And Mr. Jones joined the U.S. Marine Corps in the early 1950s. He was in the Marines when he heard of the Jan. 1, 1953, death of Hank Williams: Mr. Jones wept in the barracks to hear of the demise of his hero.
    “The guy in the bunk next to mine (when I was in the service) showed me the front page of the newspaper with a headline that screamed that country music’s greatest singer-songwriter had been found dead in the back of a car on the way to a show in Canton, Ohio,” said Mr. Jones, quoted in the liner notes to boxed set “The Complete Hank Williams.” “That sounded as far away to me as Europe, and I couldn’t believe that someone who was so close to my heart had died in such a distant land. Music was the biggest part of my life, and Hank Williams had been my biggest musical influence. By that thinking, you could say he was the biggest part of my life at that time. That’s how personally I took him and his songs... I lay there and bawled.”
    In 1954, Mr. Jones was out of the Marines. He embarked on a recording career, making records for the Texas-based Starday label. On Starday, Mr. Jones scored his first Top Five hit, “Why Baby Why,” in 1955. He soon began recording in Nashville for Mercury Records, where he notched his first top-charting hit, 1959’s “White Lightning,” along with notables “Color Of The Blues,” “Tender Years” and “Who Shot Sam.”
    Mr. Jones moved to United Artists Records in 1962, scoring a No. 1 hit with his first United Artists recording, a Dickey Lee song pitched to him by Clement called “She Thinks I Still Care.”
    “The song perfectly represented Jones at the time, his vocal flawless and keening, drilling hard on certain lines and lyrics for all they were worth,” wrote Rich Kienzle in the liner notes of a Bear Family Records boxed set that includes Mr. Jones’ recordings from 1962 through 1964.
    For United Artists, Mr. Jones recorded notables including “She Thinks I Still Care,” “You Comb Her Hair,” “The Race Is On” and “Least Of All.” He and then-manager and producer Pappy Daily moved on to Musicor Records in 1965 and cut major hits including “Walk Through This World With Me,” “If My Heart Had Windows” and the devastating “A Good Year For The Roses.”
    In 1968, Mr. Jones and his second wife, Shirley Ann Corley, divorced after 14 years of marriage. A year later, he married singer Tammy Wynette. Their union produced some emotionally captivating music, including No. 1 hits “We’re Gonna Hold On,” “Golden Ring” and “Near You,” but day-to-day relations were problematic. Wynette was prone to wrenching melodrama, and Mr. Jones was prone to exacerbating such drama with substance abuse. Once, she hid the keys to his numerous cars to assure that he wouldn’t go to town while on a bender. But she neglected to secure the keys to Mr. Jones’ riding lawn mower, which he drove to town...more

     In the new century, Mr. Jones was vocally supportive of contemporary artists including Jackson and Kenny Chesney, but was often critical of the pop-leaning sounds he heard on country radio and on awards shows. “I know things change,” he wrote to a Tennessean reporter after viewing a 2001 awards show. “But you would not turn on a classical station to hear rock music, nor would you turn on a jazz station and expect to hear rap music. I believe there is room for all genres of music, and we should hold on to our heritage and make true country music that fans still love.”

    Amen to that.

    Friday, April 26, 2013

    NCBA backs bill to streamline grazing permits

    The nation's largest cattlemen's group is pushing legislation in Congress that seeks to increase business certainty for ranchers who hold federal grazing permits. The bill by Rep. Raul Labrador, R-Idaho, would give the federal government flexibility to keep grazing in place while going through the lengthy environmental process to renew permits. Currently, the U.S. Bureau of Land Management has more than 4,000 grazing renewals on its collective desks and the U.S. Forest Service has about 2,500, said Dustin Van Liew, the National Cattlemen's Beef Association's director of federal lands. The bill would also exempt about 2,000 family transfers of permits that occur each year and allow the crossing of livestock on federal lands to get to designated grazing allotments, Van Liew said. As such, the bill -- House Resolution 657 -- is this season's priority legislation for the NCBA and the Public Lands Council, of which Van Liew is executive director. "We're hopeful," Van Liew said. "We will continue to work with the U.S. Senate to advance the bill and to hopefully see the bill on the president's desk before the end of the 113th Congress." Labrador's bill is similar to NCBA-backed legislation by Rep. Paul Gosar, R-Ariz., that seeks to expedite the process to reduce hazardous fuel loads on federal lands at the most risk of wildfire through livestock grazing and timber harvesting. Both bills were reintroduced this year after failing in Congress in the last session. Labrador's legislation passed the House of Representatives last year and now has a companion bill introduced by Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo...more

    Utah governor pitches plan to protect sage grouse

    Utah’s new greater sage grouse conservation plan aims to protect and expand the bird’s sagebrush habitat, but it places only voluntary prescriptions on private land and allows development to erase grouse turf as long as habitat is restored elsewhere. Conservationists were quick to point out what they see as weaknesses in the plan that was crafted to prevent the ground-nesting bird’s listing as a federally protected species. "We are very committed to helping the sage grouse in Utah thrive. The folks in rural Utah consider the land, both private and federal, their backyard and they take good care of it and they want those wildlife critters to stick around," said Kathleen Clarke, Gov. Gary Herbert’s top public lands adviser. Herbert on Wednesday released the plan, which designates 11 sage grouse conservation areas that cover about 7.5 million acres. The state envisions a "mitigation bank" that lets industry purchase the privilege to "disturb" habitat, including leks, by reclaiming four times more habitat for the birds elsewhere. "It tries to avoid disturbance. If you have to move in with an oil well or with a recreational opportunity, we hope to compensate that loss [of habitat] with a 4-to-1 ratio, which is a gain," said John Harja, Clarke’s predecessor who now advises the state Department of Agriculture...more

    The above is from the Salt Lake Tribune.  Now note the different headline and story from the Deseret News

    Utah unveils plan to conserve 90 percent of greater sage grouse population
    Gov. Gary Herbert's office rolled out its conservation plan for the imperiled greater sage grouse, setting up 13 distinct management areas it hopes will prevent the animal from being named to the Endangered Species List. Such a federal classification would have substantial economic impacts to Utah, invoking limitations on development, natural resource extraction and grazing — limits top state officials have been fighting to prevent. "We certainly want to avoid a listing," said Kathleen Clarke, director of the governor's Public Lands Policy Coordination Office. "About 95 percent of these birds in Utah live in these management areas we are going to focus on." The conservation plan released Wednesday grew out of a yearlong working group effort led by Clarke that tapped the expertise of wildlife biologists, conservationists and public land managers such as the Bureau of Land Management and the School and Institutional Trust Lands Administration. A series of public meetings also solicited input from residents who may be impacted by a listing, as well as farmers and ranchers interested in implementing conservation strategies to help the small, chicken-like birds...