Sunday, June 30, 2013

Arizona Forestry spokesman says 19 firefighters die battling fast-moving wildfire

Gusty, hot winds blew an Arizona blaze out of control Sunday in a forest northwest of Phoenix, overtaking and killing 19 members of an elite fire crew in the deadliest wildfire involving firefighters in the U.S. for at least 30 years. 
    The “hotshot” firefighters were forced to deploy their emergency fire shelters — tent-like structures meant to shield firefighters from flames and heat — when they were caught near the central Arizona town of Yarnell, state forestry spokesman Art Morrison told The Associated Press.
    The flames lit up the night sky in the forest above the town, and smoke from the blaze could be smelled for miles.
    The fire started after a lightning strike on Friday and spread to 2,000 acres on Sunday amid triple-digit temperatures, low humidity and windy conditions. Officials ordered the evacuations of 50 homes in several communities, and later Sunday afternoon, the Yavapai County Sheriff’s Office expanded the order to include more residents in Yarnell, a town of about 700 residents about 85 miles northwest of Phoenix.
    Prescott Fire Chief Dan Fraijo said that the 19 firefighters were a part of the city’s fire department.
    “We grieve for the family. We grieve for the department. We grieve for the city,” he said at a news conference Sunday evening. “We’re devastated. We just lost 19 of the finest people you’ll ever meet.”
    Hot shot crews are elite firefighters who often hike for miles into the wilderness with chain saws and backpacks filled with heavy gear to build lines of protection between people and fires. They remove brush, trees and anything that might burn in the direction of homes and cities.
    The crew killed in the blaze had worked other wildfires in recent weeks in New Mexico and Arizona, Fraijo said.
    “By the time they got there, it was moving very quickly,” Fraijo told the AP of Sunday’s fire.
He added that the firefighters had to deploy the emergency shelters when “something drastic” occurred.
    “One of the last fail safe methods that a firefighter can do under those conditions is literally to dig as much as they can down and cover themselves with a protective — kinda looks like a foil type — fire-resistant material — with the desire, the hope at least, is that the fire will burn over the top of them and they can survive it,” Fraijo said.
    “Under certain conditions there’s usually only sometimes a 50 percent chance that they survive,” he said. “It’s an extreme measure that’s taken under the absolute worst conditions.”
    The National Fire Protection Association had previously listed the deadliest wildland fire involving firefighters as the 1994 Storm King Fire near Glenwood Springs, Colo., which killed 14 firefighters who were overtaken by a sudden explosion of flames.
    U.S. wildfire disasters date back more than two centuries and include tragedies like the 1949 Mann Gulch fire near Helena, Mont., that killed 13, or the Rattlesnake blaze four years later that claimed 15 firefighters in Southern California.

Faux Native: On prosecuting Indian arts and crafts counterfeiters

by Barron Jones

A federal judge sentenced 60-year-old Andrew Gene Alvarez aka “Redhorse” to 30 months probation for violating the Indian Arts and Crafts Act by falsely stating that jewelry he made and sold was the creation of a Native American. Part of Alvarez's sentence prohibits him from claiming that any jewelry he makes is a Native American product.

The Indian Arts and Crafts Act forbids the offer or display for sale and the sale of any good in a manner falsely suggesting that it is Indian-produced, an Indian product or the product of a particular Indian or Indian tribe. It's a “truth-in-advertising law designed to prevent products from being marketed as ‘Indian-made,’ when the products are, in fact, not made by Indians as defined in the Act.”

According to court records, the FBI launched an investigation into Alvarez after receiving a tip from the Interior Department’s Indian Arts and Crafts Board (IACB). The IACB asserted that Alvarez, who is not an enrolled member of any recognized Native American tribe, claimed he was either Mescalero Apache or Colville and Mayo Indian as he sold goods in Santa Fe and across the U.S.

The feds busted Alvarez after he sold fake Indian jewelry to undercover agents at the Native Treasures show in Santa Fe; that show's program listed him as a Colville/Apache jewelry maker. In addition to passing his jewelry off as Native American-made, authorities said Alvarez even concocted an oral bio detailing a fake Native American heritage.

“It’s crazy, but it happens all the time. And it’s a shame because it is a national treasure that we have Native American communities who can create such beautiful artwork that you don’t find anywhere else,” said Wayne Bobrick of Wright’s Indian Art.

Bobrick said in the many years he's bought and sold Indian art and jewelry, he's seen many cases where non-Natives have undermined the market by claiming Native American heritage and producing counterfeit work. Under the Indian Arts and Crafts Act of 1990, Indian art is defined as any product produced by one of the 1.9 million members of the 565 federally- or state-recognized Indian tribes or individuals certified as Indian artisans by an Indian tribe.

Native American artist and activist Tony Eriacho said Alvarez is just part of the problem and that these types of cases persist because of lax laws and very little meaningful prosecution. “Nobody has gone to jail or put any teeth into the law,” he said. According to a 2011 Government Accountability Report, the Indian Arts and Crafts Board received almost 650 complaints alleging misrepresentation of Indian-produced goods between 2006 and 2010. The same report revealed that the IACB determined 150 of these complaints involved apparent law violations, and it determined 117 needed more investigation, but no cases were filed in federal court as a result.

In actuality only five people have been prosecuted for violation of the Indian Arts and Crafts Act between 1990 and 2010. Of those five cases, two were dismissed and the other three resulted in sentences ranging from probation to 13 months jail time.

N Scott Momaday to Receive 2013 Stewart Udall Environmental Award

This morning, the Santa Fe Conservation Trust announced that Native author N Scott Momaday is the chosen recipient for the 2013 Stewart Udall Environmental Award. The Conservation Trust is a local nonprofit that works to protect local open spaces and wildlife in perpetuity. The award, which was created in 2002, “is given to honor those values, that work, or that person or persons who inspire us to love the land, care for it, preserve its sweep and heal its wounds.”  A writer, artist and teacher, Momaday, born in 1934, is a member of both the Kiowa and Cherokee tribes, and is the founder of the nonprofit Rainy Mountain Foundation and Buffalo Trust, which works to preserve Native cultures. Momaday wrote the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel House Made of Dawn, among several other novels and books of poetry, and is known for paving the way for modern Native American literature. The award will be presented at the annual Stewart Udall Legacy Dinner on Sunday, Sept. 15. Dale and Sylvia Ball, Janie Bingham, William deBuys, Nancy Wirth, Stewart Udall, among others, have been honored at the dinner in the past. For dinner information or reservations, call 989-7019 or visit

Obama creates Native American Affairs Council, places non-Indian as chair

President Obama created a council of non-Indian bureaucrats and deceptively named it the “White House Council on Native American Affairs” on Wednesday, fooling many into believing that it was actually a council of Native Americans. In an act of typical US paternalism and inappropriate irony, the US Secretary of Interior was placed as the chair of the new council to honor Native American treaties, resources and rights. The non-Indian, British born Secretary of Interior Sally Jewell worked previously for Mobil oil in Oklahoma and the banking industry...more

Cowgirl Sass & Savvy

Head ’em up, move ’em out

by Julie Carter

A cowboy on the move isn’t always about cows, horses and the trail ahead. Moving camp is a tedious but often necessary part of cowboy living.
The relocation process is not usually accompanied with fond memories especially if it involves a bride and more belongings than just a saddle and slicker.
The first requirement for this sojourn are trailers that come in assorted sizes, age and condition. Cleanliness is subject to their history but we are talking horse and livestock trailers here so you get the idea.
It all started when the officially “retired” cowboy couple decided to sell their place and move a little closer to the roping action, also known as “town.” The only good in this plan was the idea. It pretty much went downhill from there.
It wasn’t their first move. In fact, about the 25th if anyone was counting and she was. Her job was always to pack the house up and his was to tackle the periphery. Because his tendency was to save everything in case he needed it, his part of the move was monumental and often an emotional challenge for them both.
While she emptied the house of dishes, clothes, linens, keepsakes and such, he packed up his office, barn, tack and tool rooms. Broken things that needed repair but were “too good to throw away” along with teenage used tires once again made it into the moving trailer.
She did have a short surge of hope of downsizing when he walked all the way from the barn to tell her he had actually thrown away a calendar from 1995 even though it had never been used.
One of the moves this pair made was just across the road to another house they had built. While the cowboy left for the day to go check water on a ranch a ways off, she moved the breakable stuff across the way to the new house and hired a couple gorillas to move the heavy stuff. It did startle him a little when he came home and walked into the empty house, but after 20 years or so, he was about over it. And for her? Easiest move ever.
Horse trailer moving is an art in itself. The household bedding is used to pad and buffer the furniture from scratches and dents. If it happens to be raining or snowing, everything arrives wet and those cowboy helpers will track every bit of it in and out of the old and new house.  The bride will recognize that by the time you’ve fed this crew pizza, sandwiches and beer, she’d have been money ahead to call the movers.
A legendary cowboy mover referred to in all moving stories was Joe Dan Marshall. He moved often and suspiciously that fell simultaneously with the day the rent was due. According to those that knew him well, he had a couch with a 350 engine in it and pull rope starter like a lawn mower.
The barn has been raised at the new headquarters. However, showing the wisdom earned over 30-plus years of marriage, the tack room sports His and Her doors. Designed by the head cowboy, he determined he would not have to go around her when she was saddling and she can tie her horse by her door. Well, that is when he gets her door fixed and it opens properly. New doesn’t always mean functional.
Along with his tendency to save every last thing from his Boy Scout uniform forward, she has the inclination to gift unsuspecting friends with items she will no longer need. Now with a new barn and pens, at the top of her give-away list is a pink post driver. This thoughtful gift was bestowed to her by her hero following her comment about “every set of corrals they had was falling down.” Her appreciation was boundless.

Julie, of transient gypsy blood, can be reached for comment at

Harvey, Smokey, Tuffy, and The Gila River Kid

Nunn Better
Harvey, Smokey, Tuffy, and
The Gila River Kid
By Stephen L. Wilmeth

            Smokey Nunn’s was laid to rest June 18, on the Nunn Ranch in Luna County, New Mexico. He was a gentleman.
            He was also a great cowman, a native son of New Mexico, and, for the last decade, our neighbor. If there was anybody who offered the kindest wishes of wellbeing, it was Smokey. Every time I saw him there would be his handshake and then his hand on my shoulder asking how things were going. He had no idea how much I appreciated that simple gesture.
            Striking in appearance and humble and careful in speech, he was … a Westerner.
            There are many stories of Smokey, but none typifies him more than when the dude, discovering he was a rancher, set out to determine how big a rancher he was.  When the fellow asked him how much money he had in the bank, Smokey involuntarily expelled the mouth full of whatever he was drinking and contemplated how to answer the question.
            In his modesty, he was said to have answered under his breath, “Oh, maybe a million dollars.”
When that didn’t deter the dude, the next question was how many cows he had. Without hesitation and those Nunn eyes flashing, he spat his answer.
“None of your G**D*** business!”
Money was one thing, but cows … that was another!
Nunn Better
I knew three Nunns of Smokey’s generation. They were Harvey, Smokey, and Tuffy. All are now gone.
Brother, Harvey, was one of the first men I sought when we returned from California. He was a respected name in my family by way of my uncle, Roy, and their horse dealings. Harvey was the Marine who gallantly served his country and came home to the Flying Y. He was a stocker operator … a steer man.  
Good horses and stocker cattle were his credentials and set him apart from cow-calf operators. There was just a smidge of grand separation in that qualification that was worn by Harvey.
There was something about him that made me smile. We once spent an immensely pleasant afternoon in a fall wind storm on the ridge above McKnight Cabin. He had braces on his legs full time then broken up by horses and life. His smile and his black hat, though, were intact.
I had inquired how I could contact him and I was given several telephone numbers. When asked which one I should try, the qualified answer was to call the one to the Nutt Bar.
“If you call before 8:30 PM, call the Nutt Bar,” was the actual answer. I did …!
Tuffy was their cousin. The first time I laid eyes on Tuffy, he and his Black Range fire crew pulled into the crew quarters at Gila Center. They had hauled a mule they called Jumbo and that monstrosity was straddled over the divider in the two horse government trailer! That defining event mirrored every adventure that was to transpire with Tuffy Nunn. Every 18 year old in the world would never be the same again after spending a month in fire camp with Tuffy, and I was no exception.
With long white hair and goatee, he looked like a miniature version of Buffalo Bill.
I am going to hold most memories in confidence, but there was more packed into that short span of life than any similar period in my life. There was the night we determined Tuffy was dead. He was laying there seemingly lifeless and not breathing on his bunk clothed only in the white garments in which he came into the world. Somebody came to the conclusion it was too late to call the coroner so we’d call in the morning. The next morning he shocked the creases out of us when we found him cooking breakfast!
There was another night we lined the ’62 purple Bonneville Tuffy was test driving up alongside Hugh Reed’s new Chevy pickup at Lyon’s Lodge. Craig Dunn started the race to the pavement with his Smith and Wesson. Nine river crossings later and water mottes stuck through the Bonneville’s radiator grill, Tuffy turned left to take some young lady home to Silver City. The rest of us went on to Gila Center and to bed.
No … I’m just not going to divulge anything else except, when that fire bust was over and we were lined up out there to leave to go on with the rest of our lives, Tuffy announced that I was, officially, one of his boys … what a proud moment in the annals of life.
The Gila River Kid
Several years ago, I was in a meeting with several men including Tito Morales, a Mexican cow buyer. As we talked, Tito paused as if some great thought occurred to him, looked at me, and said, “Steve, you have family in Mexico!”
“No, I don’t have family in Mexico.”
“Yea, you do,” he concluded. “You have family in Mexico.”
Later, I saw another friend, Jerry Billings, at a local equipment auction. As we talked, Smokey’s son, Joe Bill, walked by looking at auction offerings. We greeted each other and visited briefly before Joe Bill walked on.
“Steve, did your granddad ever tell you about the Gila River Kid,” Jerry asked.
“No, I know nothing about any Gila River Kid.”
As Jerry stood there contemplating my answer he said, “You know, there is a brethren from the colonies here and I want to introduce you to him (Jerry is LDS and his reference was of another Mormon from Mexico who was present at the auction).”
We found that fellow and I was introduced to him. When he heard my name he stepped back and looked at me.
Without pause, Jerry told him, “Tell him the story of the Gila River Kid.”
The story took place circa 1916 after the Nunns and my father’s family had come to southwestern New Mexico. The gist of the story was the friendship that developed between a young Nunn and what we believed was a long lost younger brother of my paternal grandfather. The setting was on the Gila River at Cliff. The young Wilmeth’s name was Ben. There was no reference to the given name of Nunn.
The two were at a dance and, in the course of the event, the young Nunn got into a row. The tiff was serious enough that notice was served that they were to disarm and the fight would be decided with fists.
That was done and before long the Nunn boy was getting the worst end of a serious beating. He called for help and purportedly yelled, “Shoot him … he’s going to kill me!”
Young Ben Wilmeth did.
The victim was not killed outright, but, in minutes, the constable had Wilmeth in custody and both the gunshot victim and the shooter were on their way to Silver City … one to the hospital and the other to jail.
The story progressed from that point to the decision made by the Nunn family to make sure the Wilmeth boy wasn’t incarcerated or hanged depending on the outcome of the victim’s plight. They hatched a plan to spring Ben from jail and get him out of the country … to Mexico.
They did exactly that.
With horses staged on the route south, they relayed young Wilmeth to the border. Arriving there, there was an anecdotal suggestion the friends called their deal even with a handshake. There is no evidence they saw each other again.
The Mormon elder concluded the story by stating the Mexicans around northern Chihuahua and Casas Grande knew the young man by a different name, the Gila River Kid.
The finale
A year later, we were branding calves and I asked Casas Grande native son and vaquero extraordinaire, Ramon Villanueva, if he knew the name Wilmeth.
“Steeph, how du yu hs’pell su nombre,” he asked. “Tell me a’gin.”
When I did, his eyes lit up. “Veelmuth … Kiko Veelmuth!”
“Yea, Kiko … purty goot cowa’boy … con ojos azul, tambien.”
He knew this Kiko who likely would have to be the son of Ben Wilmeth and the generation of my father. They would have been first cousins.
Kiko had died within months of the Villanueva conversation. Ramon related how the Wilmeths had ranched somewhere southeast from Casas Grande. He knew nothing about Ben Wilmeth.
As Joe Delk played ‘Amazing Grace’ on his fiddle at Smokey Nunn’s service, I gazed at the picture of Smokey and thought about the story of the Gila River Kid. In the program was a poem. A line read, “Thinking of friends past and places far that held hunks of (our) history in their grip.”
Indeed, friends past and places far put us in this place at this time. We have crossed paths, and we shall do so … again.

Stephen L. Wilmeth is a rancher from southern New Mexico. “God bless Smokey Nunn.”

Trail Dust: Men, animals disappeared into pits called ‘sumideros’

by Marc Simmons

The word sumidero in standard Spanish has a fairly common and unexciting meaning, which is, “a sewer, drain or gutter.” But among Southwesterners in the old days, the term was applied to something else, and therein lies an unusual story, now almost forgotten.

In his reliable book, A Dictionary of New Mexico and Southern Colorado Spanish, RubĂ©n Cobos defines sumidero as “a masked well or sinkhole.” That was what early settlers and ranchers understood it to mean.

Charles F. Lummis, who explored and photographed the back country in the 1880s, called the sumidero a curious and disagreeable freak of nature, a treacherous pitfall. “These ugly traps,” he wrote, “are a sort of mud springs with too much mud to flow and too much water to dry up.”

The ones he had been shown were generally round, 10 to 20 feet across and very deep. They occurred unexpectedly on plains or bare, alkali-covered flats.

According to Lummis, “the mud upon their surface is baked dry, and there is absolutely nothing to distinguish them from the safe ground around. But man or horse or cow that once steps upon that treacherous surface disappears from sight in an instant!”

That was a chilling prospect. He tells us that many animals and some people perished in these sumideros and the bodies were never recovered. The longest pole thrust down in the mud could not touch bottom.

Quicksands were common in Southwestern arroyos and river beds, but people expected them when fording streams and took precautions. But there was no looking out for a sumidero, claimed old-timers. You just fell in one, totally unaware. Hence the name in English, “masked well.”

The wandering archaeologist Adolph Bandelier mentioned the phenomenon in his 1888 journal. He was working in the area northwest of modern Grants in the vicinity of the village of San Mateo. There were many reports of the lethal sinkholes thereabouts.

Bandelier wrote: “San Mateo is a scattered place in a fertile valley. All along the road, for 28 miles, are the dangerous sumideros, or hidden springs, with nothing to indicate their presence on the surface.

“They are pits, constantly filled with liquid mud beneath a thin upper crust. Anyone dropping into them must die unless help is on the spot.”
Some years ago, the late Floyd Lee of San Mateo showed me a sumidero on his ranch. It was located near a line camp about 15 miles from headquarters. As Lummis and Bandelier claimed, nothing unusual showed on the surface, and I wouldn’t have known what it was without being told.

Lee seemed to think old stories about many cowboys losing their lives in these things were greatly exaggerated. However, I noticed he had carefully fenced his sumidero with extra strands of barbed wire to keep out livestock.

Europe exits climate money pit as Obama jumps in

by Ron Arnold

What does America have to show for the billions of taxpayer dollars spent to stop climate change? Is the climate better now because of 20 years of throwing money at it?

The issue is the climate, not the loads of exorbitantly expensive subsidy scandals, secretive scientists and bureaucratic claptrap we've generated to allegedly stop climate change. The question is, did the claptrap make the climate better?

Not if you heard President Obama's Georgetown University speech Tuesday or read his 21-page Climate Action Plan. He's back in 1993 with global doom propaganda, deceptive temperature claims, demonized fossil fuels and ridiculously ineffective climate fixes. In 2013 reality, did our 20 years of panicky billions buy a better climate?

Big Green doesn't want that question asked, much less answered. If the climate improved, their cash registers would fall silent and their followers snore loudly
Myron Ebell, director of the Center for Energy and Environment at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, told me, "The centerpiece of President Obama's climate plan is a declaration of all-out war on coal. The only affordable way to reduce emissions from existing coal-fired power plants - which now provide 40 percent of the nation's electricity - is to close them down."

Obama's plan has political implications as well, Ebell said. "Coal dominates the heartland states that tend to vote Republican. Major industries are located there because coal produces cheap electricity. If electric rates go up to California levels in the heartland, where will American manufacturing go?"

Ebell added that "Obama is pursuing his anti-energy agenda undemocratically through executive actions that bypass the people's elected representatives in Congress."

Autocrat Obama is also doing it without learning from the European Union's green energy experience: skyrocketing energy prices, a ruinous slide into fuel poverty, solar panel financial meltdown, wind power bankruptcies and the specter of EU disintegration. As a result, the EU suffered an outbreak of realism.
In May, Europe's heads of state and government at the EU Summit promoted shale gas and reduced energy prices. They would rather promote competition than stop global warming.

Obama just returned from Northern Ireland at the G8 meeting where he evidently didn't ask why the United Kingdom removed climate change from the agenda.

European carbon markets had collapsed with the price of carbon hitting record lows, wrecking the European Union's trading scheme for industrial CO2 emissions.

Is the US Forest Service killing the last best chance to save the Southwest’s forests?

 By Claudine LoMonaco

...For the last several years, Martin’s been a member of a precedent-setting collaboration that aims to prevent catastrophic fires. Known as the Four Forest Restoration Initiative, or 4FRI, it brought together environmentalists, industry and the US Forest Service, among others.

Their aim is to thin and restore 2.4 million acres along the Mogollon Rim in northern Arizona, an enormous swath of land on four national forests stretching from Flagstaff to the New Mexico border, and reintroduce the natural fire regime. The idea was to have a business do the work—because the government can’t afford to—and make a profit by selling wood products.

It’s the largest restoration project attempted in the US, and it’s a model for what might happen with smaller, similar projects around the country, like the plan to protect 150,000 acres in the southwest Jemez Mountains just outside Santa Fe...

Which makes what’s going on within Arizona all the more concerning, because the project has gone haplessly awry.

In May 2012, the Forest Service regional office in Albuquerque awarded the 4FRI contract to an under-the-radar company from Montana called Pioneer Forest Products. But more than a year later, Pioneer hasn’t thinned a single overgrown tree, because it’s failed to attract any investors, and the project has stalled.

This infuriates Martin, but it doesn’t surprise her. She was one of several collaboration members who blasted Pioneer from the start for a business plan that didn’t make sense. The company says it wants to manufacture products like window frames, doors and furniture that are currently made in Asia at far less cost, and turn tree branches into an experimental fuel called cellulosic biodiesel.

“They claim they are going to run their logging trucks on it,” Martin said. “I say nonsense. No they’re not. That’s not even out of the lab yet.”

In addition, one of Pioneer’s main partners is a former Forest Service supervisor who worked at the same regional office in Albuquerque that selected the company. This link has fueled further questions. Critics say missed deadlines, insufficient funding and a harebrained scheme suggest that even though Pioneer may have lacked the ability to fulfill the contract, political connections trumped reason.

The Forest Service has continued to back Pioneer, praising nonexistent “progress” in cheery press releases.
But Martin’s concerns seem warranted. SFR has found Pioneer had very little chance of ever gaining investors or succeeding as a business. It turns out the company lied about its work history in its proposal to the federal government, hiding a record of failure and bankruptcy.

The Forest Service failed to catch this, along with other glaring problems, or perform basic due diligence when reviewing Pioneer’s proposal.

It also appears the Forest Service failed to properly consider the proposal of Pioneer’s most serious competitor—a legitimate company with a widely vetted business plan, broad community support and solid financial backing.

Making matters worse, the Forest Service has known about these problems for nearly a year, but seems to have done nothing about them.

And as the ambitious 4FRI plan falters, forests around the country are left to burn.


Calif.'s Sierra a 'living lab' for climate change

In parts of California's Sierra Nevada, marshy meadows are going dry, wildflowers are blooming earlier and glaciers are melting into ice fields. Scientists also are predicting the optimal temperature zone for giant sequoias will rise hundreds and hundreds of feet, leaving trees at risk of dying over the next 100 years. As indicators point toward a warming climate, scientists across 4 million acres of federally protected land are noting changes affecting everything from the massive trees that can grow to more than two-dozen feet across to the tiny, hamsterlike pika. But what the changes mean and whether humans should do anything to intervene are sources of disagreement among land managers. "That's the tricky part of the debate: If humans are causing warming, does that obligate us under the laws of the National Park Service to try to counteract those effects?" said Nate Stephenson, a research ecologist with the U.S. Geological Survey. "How do you adapt to a changing climate if you're a national park?" added Stephenson, who is 30 years into a study of trees in the largest wilderness in the continental U.S., Sequoia-Kings Canyon National Park. Since 1895, the average temperature across California has increased by 1.7 degrees, and experts say the most visible effects of that warming occur within the Sierra Nevada, where low temperatures are rising and precipitation increasingly falls as rain rather than snow. The state's two largest rivers — the Sacramento and San Joaquin — originate in the Sierra. The range also is home to Lake Tahoe, the largest alpine lake in North America; Mount Whitney, the highest peak in the Lower 48; and the nation's only groves of giant sequoias, the largest living things on earth. There are mounting concerns about the beloved sequoias, whose sprawling, 10-foot-deep root systems make them especially vulnerable to drought and heat. Because the trees exist only in such a small region, scientists are debating whether to irrigate the 65 groves in the southern Sierra to help them endure warmer temperatures. Otherwise they fear the trees could die. During the last warm, dry period 4,000 to 10,000 years ago, their numbers were greatly diminished, according to pollen evidence collected by researchers at Northern Arizona University. "I don't want to say that because we're seeing one thing, that's how it will play out," said Rob Klinger who is studying alpine mammals for the USGS's Western Ecological Research Center. "The endgame of our study is determining whether there will be uniform change or will it be patchwork. If you look at evolutionary time scales, species have gone through these changes before, and they handle it."...more

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Bottled-water purchase leads to night in jail for UVa student

When a half-dozen men and a woman in street clothes closed in on University of Virginia student Elizabeth Daly, 20, she and two roommates panicked. That led to Daly spending a night and an afternoon in the Albemarle-Charlottesville Regional Jail. Her initial offense? Walking to her car with bottled water, cookie dough and ice cream just purchased from the Harris Teeter in the Barracks Road Shopping Center for a sorority benefit fundraiser. A group of state Alcoholic Beverage Control agents clad in plainclothes approached her, suspecting the blue carton of LaCroix sparkling water to be a 12-pack of beer. Police say one of the agents jumped on the hood of her car. She says one drew a gun. Unsure of who they were, Daly tried to flee the darkened parking lot. "They were showing unidentifiable badges after they approached us, but we became frightened, as they were not in anything close to a uniform," she recalled Thursday in a written account of the April 11 incident. "I couldn't put my windows down unless I started my car, and when I started my car they began yelling to not move the car, not to start the car. They began trying to break the windows. My roommates and I were ... terrified," Daly stated. Charlottesville Commonwealth's Attorney Dave Chapman read Daly's account and said it was factually consistent. Prosecutors say she apologized profusely when she realized who the agents were. But that wasn't good enough for ABC agents, who charged her with three felonies. Prosecutors withdrew those charges Thursday in Charlottesville General District Court, but Daly still can't understand why she sat in jail. "This has been an extremely trying experience," she wrote. "It is something to this day I cannot understand or believe has come to this point."...more

Residents angry as RCMP seize guns from High River homes (with video)

RCMP revealed Thursday that officers have seized a “substantial amount” of firearms from homes in the evacuated town of High River. “We just want to make sure that all of those things are in a spot that we control, simply because of what they are,” said Sgt. Brian Topham. “People have a significant amount of money invested in firearms ... so we put them in a place that we control and that they’re safe.” That news didn’t sit well with a crowd of frustrated residents who had planned to breach a police checkpoint northwest of the town as an evacuation order stretched into its eighth day. “I find that absolutely incredible that they have the right to go into a person’s belongings out of their home,” said resident Brenda Lackey, after learning Mounties have been taking residents’ guns. “When people find out about this there’s going to be untold hell to pay.” About 30 RCMP officers set up a blockade at the checkpoint, preventing 50 residents from walking into the town. Dozens more police cars, lights on, could be seen lining streets in the town on standby. Officers laid down a spike belt to stop anyone from attempting to drive past the blockade. That action sent the crowd of residents into a rage. “What’s next? Tear gas?” shouted one resident. “It’s just like Nazi Germany, just taking orders,” shouted another. “This is the reason the U.S. has the right to bear arms,” said Charles Timpano, pointing to the group of Mounties. Officers were ordered to fall back about an hour into the standoff in order to diffuse the situation and listen to residents’ concerns...more

Angst at the A.S.P.C.A.

But over the next couple of years, as Ms. Adams continued to serve on the board, dressed in a more politically correct manner, she was certainly an energetic patron. She plugged the A.S.P.C.A. relentlessly in her column in The New York Post; started an annual blessing of the animals at Christ Church on Park Avenue; and arranged a meeting between Christine Quinn, the City Council speaker, and A.S.P.C.A. executives, who’d had a tough time getting traction with elected officials. That relationship with Ms. Adams came to a sudden end this spring, however, when she resigned from the board after receiving, she said, a letter from someone on the board criticizing her for various offenses during her five-year tenure, though she did not want to discuss the details. The news made its way to The Post, where Ms. Adams is an enduring star. The article, quoting unnamed sources, said the A.S.P.C.A. was riven by “internal disagreements” and noted another recent defector from the board, Randy Levine, the president of the New York Yankees. The defections allowed a glimpse into an organization that, for all its good works and undeniable fund-raising prowess, seems to be a place of warring factions and competing agendas. Indeed, over the last seven years, the A.S.P.C.A. has occupied one of the most fractious places in New York City philanthropy, with more than 15 members of the roughly 20-person board resigning and being replaced. Last summer, the A.S.P.C.A.’s president, Ed Sayres, announced he was stepping down after almost a decade, as it was becoming clear his contract would likely not be renewed. Several board members had voiced misgivings about his $566,064 salary, more than double that of Wayne Pacelle, his counterpart at the Humane Society of the United States. And Mr. Sayres’s generous payment of a consultant, Mal Schwartz, back in 2006, sowed deep resentments in the board and staff, some of whom began a sub rosa e-mail campaign suggesting financial improprieties (none have been found). A new president, Matthew E. Bershadker, was named in May. “The A.S.P.C.A. board, for whatever reason, is not a happy place to be,” said Penelope Ayers, who left the board in 2008. Ms. Adams’s take: “It’s Iraq and Iran with all the varying sects.” How did it get to this? And why now, when the endowment has been on a seemingly nonstop upward trajectory for about a decade, aided by smart ad campaigns and a hit reality show?...more

Eager beaver blamed for New Mexico Internet outage

Officials have finally identified the culprit behind a 20-hour Internet and cellphone outage last week in northern New Mexico - an eager beaver. CenturyLink spokesman David Gonzales told The Associated Press on Friday that a hungry beaver chewed through the fiber line last week. He says the biting evidence was discovered by contractors who worked to repair the outage. Officials say more than 1,800 Internet users were affected by the blackout. The number of cellphone users without service during that time is still unknown. CenturyLink owns a fiber-optic cable that runs from Taos to Interstate 25. The cable carries wireless data for many residents around Taos County.

Horse slaughterhouse in New Mexico approved

Federal officials cleared the way Friday for a return to domestic horse slaughter, granting a southeastern New Mexico company's application to convert its cattle facility into a horse processing plant. In approving Valley Meat Co.'s plans to produce horse meat, Department of Agriculture officials also indicated they would grant similar permits to companies in Iowa and Missouri as early as next week. With the action, the Roswell, N.M., company becomes the first operation in the nation licensed to process horses into meat since Congress effectively banned the practice seven years ago. But the company's attorney said on Friday that he remained skeptical about Valley Meat Co.'s chances of opening any time soon, as the USDA must send an inspector to oversee operations and two animal rights groups have threatened lawsuits to block the opening. "This is very far from over," attorney Blair Dunn said. "The company is going to plan to begin operating in July. But with the potential lawsuits and the USDA - they have been dragging their feet for a year - so to now believe they are going to start supplying inspectors, we're not going to hold our breath."...more

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Farmington hosts Professional Bull Riders' Four Corners Ryan McConnel Invitational

San Juan County will get a taste of some of the best bull riding in the country this weekend. The Professional Bull Rider's first Four Corners Ryan McConnel Invitational begins today at the McGee Park Coliseum in Farmington. McConnel, a 2005 Bloomfield High graduate, said he couldn't be more exicted to come back home and compete in the event that bears his name. "I think it's one of my biggest milestones for my career," McConnel said. The Farmington stop was added to the Professional Bull Riders schedule as part of its Touring Pro Division. "This is going to be huge for the community," McConnel said. "This will be something that they've only seen on TV. It will be a star-studded lineup. They'll see bull riding like they've never seen before." The Touring Pro Division acts as a minor-league tour for the PBR, giving its riders a chance to earn points and money while trying to qualify for the PBR's main tour, the Built Ford Tough Series. One young rider attempting to establish himself on the tour is McConnel's younger brother Joseph, who will be competing in the event. Joseph McConnel, a 2012 Bloomfield High graduate, is currently ranked 20th in the Touring Pro Division thanks to a win in January at an event in Denver in which he took home $23,000 for first place. Joseph McConnel said having his older brother on tour has helped to ease his transition into the professional ranks a year after he won the National High School Finals Rodeo national title. "He's always pushed me, and now we're pushing each other," Joseph McConnel said...more

IF YOU GO What: Pro Bull Riders Touring Pro Ryan McConnel Invitational
When: June 28-29, 7:30 p.m.
Where: McGee Park Coliseum; 41 CR 5568
Cost: Tickets range from $5 to $35
More info: To purchase tickets, call 505-325-4515

Ground Squirrel vs. Bull Snake - Gold Canyon, AZ - video

A woman in Gold Canyon, Ariz., called 911 earlier this week to report a backyard brawl that had gotten out of control — between a feisty squirrel and a gopher snake. By the time firefighters arrived, the two had been fighting for about a half hour and were showing no signs of letting up. Watch some of the viral footage below:

Local 6 finds drone hovering over Central Florida - video

Local 6 has obtained nearly two hours of footage from a small, unmanned drone that was hovering over Central Florida -- watching and recording people. It literally fell out of the sky, crashing into a tree, where a Local 6 employee found it and turned it over. On the high-definition GoPro camera that was attached to the drone, you can see each flight starts innocently enough. But you can see the potential for bad behavior. In one shot, the drone races toward an apartment window, getting within feet of the glass. In another shot, the drone hovers over a female sunbather at a pool. She's completely unaware that it's there, and she never looks up. But the scariest shot of all shows the drone wobbling high over I-4 as cars zoom by down below. The drivers have no idea that the drone was out of control at that point, and only seconds away from crashing. There are also shots of the pilot. By carefully analyzing the footage, we discovered exactly where he lives -- an apartment in Altamonte Springs, right next to I-4. His name is Guimy Alexis -- a student who built the drone, and many other...more

Go here to see the video report.


Target for Surveillance: Cattle Eructation (Here come the federal fart police)

by Terence Jeffrey

President Obama explained his plan to save the planetary climate in a speech delivered at Georgetown University on Tuesday, he did not mention cattle, but he did state his desire "to make sure that we're not seeing methane emissions."

Some of those, the government has made clear, are of bovine origin.

Back in 2007, the Environmental Protection Agency published a paper explaining its effort to develop a model "to estimate methane from enteric fermentation in cattle."

"During digestion, microbes resident in an animal's digestive system ferment food consumed by the animal," the paper explained. "This microbial fermentation process, referred to as enteric fermentation, produces methane as a byproduct, which can be exhaled or eructated by the animal."

So? Have not animals been eructating methane for millennia?

"Cattle are the largest contributing livestock species to enteric fermentation in the United States, accounting for over 95 percent of the methane emissions from this source," said the EPA paper. "These emissions account for almost 20 percent of the total anthropogenic methane emissions in the United States."


Well, climate-change cognoscenti can find an answer in the Climate Action Plan the White House released Tuesday in conjunction with the president's speech.

"Curbing emissions of methane is critical to our overall effort to address global climate change," says the president's plan. "Methane currently accounts for roughly 9 percent of domestic greenhouse gas emissions and has a global warming potential that is more than 20 times greater than carbon dioxide."

In this view of things, the dairy cow that produced the milk you fed to your child and the steer that yielded the steak you hope to throw on the grill next Saturday are threatening the planet.

"Cattle Eructation Leads to Global Devastation" may be too simplistic a bumper sticker for their cause — but they are unmistakably saying cattle eructations are at least one cause leading toward global devastation via manmade (or is it man- and bovine-made?) global warming.

That is why, even back in 2007, when George W. Bush was president, the EPA's cattle-eructation experts were developing a plan for monitoring methane emissions.

"In order to more accurately characterize emissions from this source, EPA has recently focused its attention on adopting and improving the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Tier 2 method for estimating methane emission from cattle," said the EPA paper.

Indeed, EPA planned to track — at least through estimates — what American cattle were doing on on a month-by-month basis.

"The most significant modification to the IPCC Tier 2 method that EPA made was to model cattle sub-populations on a monthly basis," said the paper. "Factors such as weight gain, birth rates, pregnancy, feedlot placements and slaughter rates were tracked to characterize the U.S. cattle population in greater detail than in previous inventories, in which only end-of-year population data were used."

Is a federal government that seeks to measure and modulate the methane emissions of cattle overreaching?

One evening out on the flats a small herd of cattle are grazing.  A small drone, barely noticeable, appears and quietly hovers overhead. 

Thirty minutes later you start to hear the thump, thump, thump sounds of the blades on the hybrid helicopters.  The cows raise their heads but it's too late.   The EPA S.W.A.T units  are overhead and dropping biodegradable nets over the terrified bovine criminals.  Specially trained Federal Fart Collectors rappel to the ground and whip out their solar powered FCDs (U.N. approved Fart Collection Device).

Just as the EPA officers were approaching the trapped cattle a message came through on their green-certified radio.

Oh, No, they've been sequestered!

Come on Congress, keep cutting.

Otherwise the Pedo Police will once again raid our ranchos.