Saturday, November 30, 2013

Los Alamos working to create national park

Fat Man Aug. 9, 1945
Tucked away in one of northern New Mexico’s pristine mountain canyons is an old log cabin that was the birthplace not of a famous person, but a top-secret mission that forever changed the world. Pond Cabin, along with a nearby small and stark building where the second person died while developing the nuclear bomb, are among a number of structures scattered in and around the modern day Los Alamos National Laboratory that are being proposed as sites for a new national park commemorating the Manhattan Project. It’s an odd place for a national park, many admit. Besides the fact that some of the sites are behind the gates to what is supposed to be one of the most secure research facilities in the world, nuclear critics have called the plan an expensive glorification of an ugly chapter in history. Supporters, however, note that good or bad, the Manhattan Project transformed history. And they argue that key sites that have not already been bulldozed should be preserved and the public should be allowed to visit them. Among the proposed park’s biggest supporters are lab workers like McGehee. She has been working since an act was passed in 2004 to study creation of such parks, to help identify and preserve areas in town and within lab property to include. Potential park properties include some buildings in downtown Los Alamos, a town that was essentially created to support the lab, as well as 17 buildings in six “industrial sites” within the lab’s fence. They include the V-site, where the first atomic bomb to be detonated at the Trinity Site was assembled, as well as the areas where the Little Boy and Fat Man nuclear bombs that were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, respectively, were assembled. Also on the list is the Pajarito site, which includes Pond Cabin and the Slotin Building. Pond Cabin had been part of a boys’ school and dude ranch that was purchased and taken over to create Los Alamos lab. It was turned into a key plutonium research office after the first so-called “criticality accident” killed physicist Harry Daghlian, prompting officials to move research to the cabin in a more remote area. A few hundred yards away is the Slotin Building, where Louis Alexander Slotin was killed after a slipped screwdriver accidentally began a fission reaction, making him the second casualty of the Manhattan Project. Legislation to create the parks at the nation’s nuclear sites passed the House and one Senate committee earlier this year. If it is passed and signed into law, the parks would be limited to areas involved in the Manhattan Project that created the first nuclear weapons. But McGehee has also been busy researching and documenting other now closed areas of the lab. For example, during a 70th anniversary commemoration this summer, lab officials took a media tour and workers and their families on tours of what until recently had been secret tunnel where the nation’s nuclear stockpile was stored after World War II...more

Gun-Control Supporters Say Momentum Quietly Building to Get a Bill Through

Congressional gun-control advocates are preparing to take another run at expanding background checks on those looking to purchase firearms. The legislation pending in the House requires that background checks on gun purchasers be required at gun shows and in similar settings. Currently, only transactions involving federally licensed firearms dealers require a background check. A Senate bill requiring instant background checks for almost all sales through the FBI’s National Instant Criminal Background Check System, which also prohibited firearms listings on unlicensed websites, fell six votes shy of the 60 needed to break a filibuster in April. But proponents maintain the culture is quickly changing and that support for additional firearms restrictions is growing in both the public and on Capitol Hill. The Public Safety and Second Amendment Rights Protection Act of 2013, a measure sponsored by Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.) and Rep. Mike Thompson (D-Calif.), who chairs the House Gun Violence Prevention Task Force, has been sitting idly in the House Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, Homeland Security and Investigations since April. But it has 185 co-sponsors, leaving it 33 votes short of a majority in the lower chamber. In addition to expanding background checks, the King-Thompson legislation creates a commission to study and report on the “root causes of these recurring and tragic acts of mass violence.” “Right now, a criminal in many states can buy a firearm at a gun show, over the internet, or through a newspaper ad – because those sales don’t require a background check,” Thompson said. “Last year, the background check system identified and denied 88,000 gun sales to criminals, domestic abusers, those with dangerous mental illnesses and other prohibited purchasers. However, those same criminals could buy those same guns at a gun show or over the Internet without any questions asked. H.R. 1565 closes this huge loophole, greatly reducing the number of places a criminal can buy a gun.” Thompson said the bill protects rights under the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution by providing an exemption on background checks for firearm transfers between family and friends. “You won’t have to get a background check when you inherit the family rifle, borrow a friend’s shotgun for a hunting trip or purchase a gun from a buddy or neighbor,” Thompson said. It further bans the creation of a federal registry and makes the misuse of records a felony, punishable by up to 15 years in prison. It allows active duty military to buy firearms in their home states and the state in which they are stationed, authorizes the use of a state concealed carry permit in lieu of a background check to purchase a firearm and allows interstate handgun sales from licensed dealers. Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), who sponsored the legislation that failed to make it through the Senate earlier this year, said public outrage over mass shootings – a September incident at the Navy Yard in Washington that left 13 dead including the shooter is a recent example — and the persistent advocacy of gun-control supporters have created a political atmosphere similar to the 1990s when Congress passed the Brady Bill...more

USDA adds grass-fed beef report

DESPITE lacking the budget to conduct a major midyear cattle inventory, the U.S. Department of Agriculture has added a monthly report tracking the grass-fed beef market to its portfolio of agricultural market data products. The monthly "Grass Fed Beef Report," first published in September, covers cattle prices, wholesale beef prices and direct retail prices. According to a release announcing the new report, USDA's Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) created the report in response to a request from the Wallace Center, a Virginia-based organization that "supports entrepreneurs and communities as they build a new, 21st-century food system that is healthier for people, the environment and the economy." The organization asked USDA for a data product that might help them attract more producers to grass-fed beef production. "This monthly report will bring market clarity and exposure to assist the grass-fed industry in marketing their products," AMS administrator Anne Alonzo said. "This report will fill a significant data gap for the industry and increase transparency in the marketplace for all participants." The grass-fed industry, generally speaking, has been flying in the proverbial dark from its inception. Basic estimates of the size and scope of the market itself are hard to come by, with most pointing toward grass-fed production as being less than 5% of all U.S. beef produced. While the grass-fed industry will have at least some data at its disposal now, the beef industry as a whole was disappointed to learn last month that USDA would not conduct a midyear cattle inventory for a second year in a row. Due to budget cuts mandated by the sequestration, USDA suspended a number of statistical reports in 2013, most of which were of little concern to the feed and livestock industries...more

Friday, November 29, 2013

We Should Be Thankful for Private Property


Had today's politicians and opinion-makers been in power four centuries ago, Americans might celebrate "Starvation Day" this week, not Thanksgiving.

The Pilgrims started out with communal property rules. When they first settled at Plymouth, they were told: "Share everything, share the work, and we'll share the harvest."

The colony's contract said their new settlement was to be a "common." Everyone was to receive necessities out of the common stock. There was to be little individual property.

That wasn't the only thing about the Plymouth Colony that sounds like it was from Karl Marx: Its labor was to be organized according to the different capabilities of the settlers. People would produce according to their abilities and consume according to their needs. That sure sounds fair.

They nearly starved and created what economists call the "tragedy of the commons."

If people can access the same stuff by working less, they will. Plymouth settlers faked illness instead of working the common property. The harvest was meager, and for two years, there was famine. But then, after the colony's governor, William Bradford, wrote that they should "set corn every man for his own particular," they dropped the commons idea. He assigned to every family a parcel of land to treat as its own.

The results were dramatic. Much more corn was planted. Instead of famine, there was plenty. Thanks to private property, they got food -- and thanks to it, we have food today.

This doesn't mean Pilgrims themselves saw the broader economic implications of what they'd been through. "I don't think they were celebrating Thanksgiving because they'd realized that capitalism works and communal property is a failure," says economist Russ Roberts. "I think they were just happy to be alive."

I wish people understood. This idea that happiness and equality lie in banding together and doing things as a commune is appealing. It's the principle behind the Soviet Union, Medicare, the Vietnam War, Obamacare and so on. Some communal central planning is helpful, but too much is dangerous. The Pilgrims weren't the first settlers on the East Coast of the New World to make this mistake.

Just a few years before, the colony of Jamestown was almost wiped out by the same idea.
Historian Edmund S. Morgan, in "American Slavery, American Freedom: The Ordeal of Colonial Virginia," describes what happened in 1609-1610: "There are 500 people in the colony now. And they are starving. They scour the woods listlessly for nuts, roots and berries. And they offer the only authentic examples of cannibalism witnessed in Virginia. One provident man chops up his wife and salts down the pieces. Others dig up graves to eat the corpses. By spring only sixty are left alive."

After that season, the colony was abandoned for years.

The lesson that a commons is often undesirable is all around us. What image comes to mind if I write "public toilet"? Consider traffic congestion and poor upkeep of many publicly owned roads. But most people don't understand that the solution is private property.

Combating the "No one Wants to Ban Guns Lie"

There are many people who advocate for bans on guns, but most of them are smart enough to know that the way to obtain such bans is incrementally, as has been done for the last 75 years.   Why can't you walk down to the corner hardware store and buy a gun muffler for your pistol or rifle, like they do in Finland?  A gun ban passed in 1934.   Why can't you order military surplus rifles mail order, and have them delivered to your door, even though they are almost never used in crime?  A gun ban passed in 1968.  Why can't you pay the $200 tax, jump through the ridiculous hoops and interminable wait the BATFE requires to buy a newly made MP5, just like the police often carry, for the police price of $1,000, instead of the current U.S. legal price of $26,000?   A gun ban in 1986.     Why can't a Vietnam Vet, who 45 years ago signed a plea bargain about an argument with his wife, buy a shotgun to go hunting with his grandson?  A gun ban passed in 1996.  All of these laws are effective gun bans through the use of taxes, regulations, and the expansion of the classes of "prohibited possessors".

Here are links to a couple of quotes from 2012 of politicians who openly talked of gun bans:

From Governor Cuomo,

“Confiscation could be an option. Mandatory sale to the state could be an option. Permitting could be an option — keep your gun but permit it.”
From Illinois Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky:

Schakowsky: We’re on a roll now, and I think we’ve got to take the--you know, we’re gonna push as hard as we can and as far as we can.

Mattera: So the assault weapons ban is just the beginning?

Schakowsky: Oh absolutely. I mean, I’m against handguns. We have, in Illinois, the Council Against Handgun... something [Violence]. Yeah, I’m a member of that. So, absolutely.

There are many more quotes floating around the Internet showing that quite a few people have advocated gun bans in the United States.   The quotes on the lists that I have seen are all before the year 2000 for a reason: the would be gun banners learned that openly talking about a ban is bad for your political career.  The best list of quotes that I have found was compiled by Eugene Volokh at

Here is the famous quote by Charles Krauthammer, explaining why the insane "assault weapon ban" made no sense, except for getting ready for future confiscation:
In fact, the assault weapons ban will have no significant effect either on the crime rate or on personal security.  Nonetheless, it is a good idea . . . .  Its only real justification is not to reduce crime but to desensitize the public to the regulation of weapons in preparation for their ultimate confiscation.
              Charles Krauthammer (columnist), Disarm the Citizenry. But Not Yet, Washington Post, Apr. 5, 1996 (boldface added).

It is the first on Professor Volokh's List, but there are dozens more.

When some Internet commando of dubious intention indignantly proclaims: "No one wants to take your guns!", just use the above sources to show how ignorant  they are about the facts.

©2013 by Dean Weingarten: Permission to share is granted when this notice is included. Link to Gun Watch

British Singer Attacks 'Thankskilling,' Says Eating Turkey Spurs Global Warming

Don't expect Morrissey to have a happy Thanksgiving.

The British singer and outspoken vegetarian is blasting both the annual holiday's menu as well as President Barack Obama for engaging in the traditional turkey pardon Wednesday. Morrissey dubbed the American holiday "Thankskilling," adding the murder of so many turkeys each November yields unhealthy food while warming the planet.

Please ignore the abysmal example set by President Obama who, in the name of Thanksgiving, supports torture as 45 million birds are horrifically abused; dragged through electrified stun baths, and then have their throats slit. And President Obama laughs. Haha, so funny!
 ...Further, the meat industry is responsible for 51% of human-caused greenhouse-gas emission, therefore the embarrassingly stupid White House 'turkey pardon' is open support for a viciously cruel and environmentally irresponsible industry.


Controversial study linking GM corn to tumors in rats retracted

Since its publication in September 2012, a study that showed rats fed Monsanto’s glyphosate-resistant NK603 maize developed more tumors than controls has been roundly criticized for its poor experimental design and dubious statistical methods. Yesterday, the study was retracted. The retraction was initiated by the journal Food and Chemical Toxicology after the authors refused to withdraw it themselves. Writes Barbara Casassus for Nature News:
The paper, from a research group led by Gilles-Eric Séralini, a molecular biologist at the University of Caen, France, and published in 20121, showed “no evidence of fraud or intentional misrepresentation of the data”, said a statement from Elsevier, which publishes the journal. But the small number and type of animals used in the study means that “no definitive conclusions can be reached”. The known high incidence of tumours in the Sprague-Dawley rat ”cannot be excluded as the cause of the higher mortality and incidence observed in the treated groups”, it added.
Today’s move came as no surprise. Earlier this month, the journal’s editor-in-chief, Wallace Hayes, threatened retraction if Séralini refused to withdraw the paper, which is exactly what he announced at a press conference in Brussels this morning. Séralini and his team remained unrepentant, and allege that the retraction derives from the journal's editorial appointment of biologist Richard Goodman, who previously worked for biotechnology giant Monsanto for seven years.
The important thing to remember about GMOs is that they are merely one solution to an ancient human puzzle, viz. how do we feed ourselves, and how do we do it safely? Are they the end-all-be-all solution to challenges of agricultural productivity? Hardly. But neither are they unambiguously cancer-causing scourges upon humanity. Studies like this, which cut corners to arrive at a scary conclusion, undercut both sides of the GMO debate by painting one side as credulous and the other as obstinate.


Rails to Trails: A Train Wreck for Property Owners


Rails to Trails is a government program to convert abandoned railroad tracks to recreational trails. Sounds great, except that the tracks run over private property, and the private landowners haven’t been paid for this permanent land grab. A case before the Supreme Court this term, Brandt v. United States, demonstrates the program’s problems.  

The Brandt family owns 83 acres of Wyoming property, split in half by a railroad right of way. Under the General Railroad Right-of-Way Act of 1875, the government paid the Brandts’ predecessors to use their land for the limited purpose of laying train tracks. The understanding at the time was that the land would revert to private property if and when the railroads ceased operating.

The railroad’s right to use the Brandts’ property ended when it abandoned its right of way to the the land in 2003. The Brandts should now be able to use the strip of land however they please. But in 2005, under the “Rails to Trails” statute, the government told the Brandts that it would be converting the abandoned railway into a recreational trail.

In 1988, a century after contracts were signed, the federal government passed a “Railbanking” law to preserve its possession and establish its right to turn abandoned railroad tracks into recreational parks. This was not what landowners had agreed to and was not within the terms of the government’s limited right to use the Brandts’ land.

Converting the tracks into a trail makes the government’s use of the land permanent rather than temporary and conditional on the railroad’s use. It also changes the nature of how the government plans to use the land. If the government wants to convert the expired railroad easement into a recreational trail, it should have to pay the Brandts just compensation for this new, permanent taking.

The Pacific Legal Foundation, which filed an amicus brief on the Brandts’ behalf, writes that, because existing precedent is so clear, the “case should have been open-and-shut.” Instead, the “United States tried to circumvent Federal Circuit precedent by filing a quiet title action in a Wyoming federal district court,” claiming that its “implied” right to use the land trumped the Brandts’ interest. The government relied on weak authority to convince the Tenth Circuit that it had an “implied reversionary interest” in the railroad easement, and that the common law of property does not apply to disputes over ownership of railroad easements.

But common law principles of ownership always apply to property. The Supreme Court has repeatedly applied common law to railroad easements, including requiring subsequent purchasers of the underlying land to purchase the entire tract, including the easement portion conditionally contracted to the railroad. That means that the land the Brandts bought included the strip the feds now claim belongs to them, and the price the Brandts paid reflects that they, not the government, own that strip.

...None of this controversy is a surprise to the government, which has been defending these programs in court since the beginning. As early as 1942, the Supreme Court interpreted the Railroad Right of Way Act to grant only an easement, rather than a more expansive property right. More recently, in 2002, Assistant Attorney General Thomas L. Sansonetti warned Congress that then-pending rails-to-trails cases across the country involved 4,550 private property owners and exposed the government to over $57 million in constitutionally-required compensation for these takings. 

Democratic Colorado state senator resigns to avoid recall over gun law

A Democratic Colorado state senator resigned Wednesday to avoid a possible recall election over a controversial gun control law that led to the ouster of two of her colleagues earlier this year. Sen. Evie Hudak, who has represented a district that includes Denver’s western suburbs since 2008, announced her resignation less than a week before opponents planned to submit petitions to recall her. The recall efforts came after Colorado's Democratic Legislature and governor last year approved a slate of gun-control measures including ammunition magazine limits and expanded background checks. The limits were the first adopted outside the East Coast after the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut that left 20 first-graders and six educators dead. In September, Democratic state Sens. John Morse and Angela Giron were recalled in favor of Republican replacements over their support of the legislation. KDVR reports that by resigning, Hudak ensures that a Democrat will be appointed in her seat and the party will retain its one-seat majority in the Senate, which they would have lost if Hudak was successfully recalled...more

Utah environmental group joins regional powerhouse

The Utah Environmental Congress, a small nonprofit working to shield the state’s national forests from extractive industries and motorized recreation, has merged with the regional WildEarth Guardians. UEC’s Salt Lake City office joins the Guardians’ multi-city network, working to thwart coal mining in the Southern Rockies to bring back the gray wolf and other native denizens of the forests. "Being a part of WildEarth Guardians creates many exciting possibilities," said UEC founder and board member Denise Boggs. "Together we can reach a larger audience, protect and restore more wild places and most importantly, increase our ability to implement our mission and achieve our mutual vision of national forest and wildlife protection in Utah." UEC’s campaigns against mining, drilling and logging have long frustrated Utah’s rural counties, whose leaders see resource extraction as the basis for economic development. UEC’s two-member staff is now part of Guardians’ Wild Places program fighting for the ecological integrity of Western landscapes stretching from the Grand Canyon to the Northern Rockies on a variety of issues. WildEarth started in 1989 as Forest Guardians, with a focus on protecting New Mexico’s Elk Mountains from cattle grazing and logging. It took its present name in 2008 after merging with the Colorado predator-conservation outfit Sinapu and later with Missoula-based Wildlands CPR, expanding its mission along the way. With a paid staff now numbering 26 including three in-house attorneys, Guardians works out of main offices in Denver, Santa Fe, N.M. and Missoula, Mont., and satellites in San Diego, Tucson, Ariz., Portland and Eugene, Ore. and Laramie, Wyo. Its network includes 100,000 supporters throughout the country. It gets funding from 10,000 dues paying members and grants from Wilburforce Foundation and other foundations. Horning hopes to recruit Utah conservationists to serve on his board...more

Ranch Radio Song Of The Day #1156

Staying with the 60s Ranch Radio today features Willie Nelson's 1967 recording of Blackjack County Chain.  The Westerner

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Happy Thanksgiving!

Army, ranchers reach Piñon Canyon armistice

Officials from Las Animas County, the Army and Congress gathered here Monday to declare an armistice in the 10-year fight over Fort Carson's Piñon Canyon Maneuver Site. At the urging of Sen. Mark Udall, a Boulder County Democrat, Army Assistant Secretary Katherine Hammack used the paperwork equivalent of a wooden stake to kill expansion plans for the 235,000-acre training site. "It's kind of an emotional moment," said Las Animas County Commissioner Gary Hill, a rancher and neighbor of the training area who has been at war with the Army over expansion for years. In 2003, Army officials commissioned a study that found a need for more training land at Piñon - a requirement that eventually grew to 418,577 additional acres. The big number kicked off a revolt of sorts on the sparsely-populated ranchlands near the training area, east of Trinidad. Even as the Pentagon moved in 2007 to issue a waiver to land purchase rules that would fuel the Army's ambition, Congress moved to block expansion by passing a series of measures that banned spending for growth. Monday the Pentagon formally rescinded permission for the Army to seek expansion land. Hammack said the move was justified because the Army is cutting 80,000 soldiers from its roster as part of a plan to cut $1 trillion from the Pentagon budget over 10 years, "The Army is shrinking and as the Army reduces in size, our training needs are reduced," Hammack said. The original Pinyon Canyon site was acquired at the height of the Cold War as a place where large formations of tanks could practice for fighting in Europe. In ensuing conflicts, the site has been used to simulate fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan. But, Piñon Canyon has been at the center of controversy in southeastern Colorado since it opened in 1983. A significant portion of the original 235,000 acres was acquired through use of eminent domain, which allows government seizure of land for public use...more

Congratulations to all the folks involved, a great victory for private property.

The mention of the Cold War, Iraq and Afghanistan brings me to something I have been thinking about for awhile:  How much has War cost ranchers in the U.S.?  How many ranching families have been sacrificed for training troops to go to War?  We know the DOD owns 28 million acres today, but I wonder how much land they controlled prior to WWII.


Emissions of Methane in U.S. Exceed Estimates, Study Finds

Emissions of the greenhouse gas methane due to human activity were roughly 1.5 times greater in the United States in the middle of the last decade than prevailing estimates, according to a new analysis by 15 climate scientists published Monday in The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The analysis also said that methane discharges in Texas and Oklahoma, where oil and gas production was concentrated at the time, were 2.7 times greater than conventional estimates. Emissions from oil and gas activity alone could be five times greater than the prevailing estimate, the report said. The study relies on nearly 12,700 measurements of atmospheric methane in 2007 and 2008. Its conclusions are sharply at odds with the two most comprehensive estimates of methane emissions, by the Environmental Protection Agency and an alliance of the Netherlands and the European Commission. The E.P.A. has stated that all emissions of methane, from both man-made and natural sources, have been slowly but steadily declining since the mid-1990s. In April, the agency reduced its estimate of methane discharges from 1990 through 2010 by 8 to 12 percent, largely citing sharp decreases in discharges from gas production and transmission, landfills and coal mines. The new analysis calls that reduction into question, saying that two sources of methane emissions in particular — from oil and gas production and from cattle and other livestock — appear to have been markedly larger than the E.P.A. estimated during 2007 and 2008...more

Lincoln Co. - More protests of water rights transfers filed

Out of three requested water rights transfers by the village of Ruidoso recently posted on the website of the New Mexico State Engineer, two are being protested by the Lincoln County Commission. The chairman called one of the requests involving a transfer between two different streams, "beyond insane." Commissioners also criticized the state's approach to giving public notice of permit applications. The only request not challenged involves a renewal of a permit for 11 years to change a point of diversion, place and purpose of 123 acre feet per year of groundwater and to change a point of diversion from groundwater to surface water and groundwater, by ceasing diversion on five wells within the Ruidoso Downs Race Track. An acre foot of water equates to 325,851 gallons of water. The applicant, the village of Ruidoso and Ruidoso Properties Irrevocable Management Trust, propose to begin diversion of the same amount of groundwater and surface waters of the Rio Ruidoso and supplemental groundwater from 11 wells and three surface water points for municipal purposes. Commission Chairman Jackie Powell, who tracks applications and water issues, pointed out that the request is an extension of an existing permit and the racetrack "is in the area and (the application is) kind of transferring water that is close." But she criticized the other two applications, including that one was filed in July, but only recently posted on the state engineer's website...more

Aztec Ruins awarded funding for trail expansion

Next summer, those walking from downtown Aztec to Aztec Ruins National Monument can trace mule tracks that traversed the Old Spanish Trail about 200 years ago. Thanks to a nearly $100,000 grant from the National Park Service's Connecting Trails to Parks program, Aztec Ruins will offer more than just enhanced pedestrian access to the Great Kiva. The money will be spent to retrace the Old Spanish Trail, a route used by Spanish merchants in the early 1800s to transport goods by pack mule from New Mexico to California. Aztec Ruins Superintendent Larry Turk will work with the Old Spanish Trail Association and National Parks Service to find the route. Surviving diaries document Spanish merchants traveling with pack mules along the route to sell New Mexican goods like serapes, quilts and blankets. LeRoy Hafen's book "Old Spanish Trail" calls the merchant route "the longest, crookedest, most arduous pack mule trail in the history of America." According to Hafen, in 1829, a Spanish merchant named Antonio Armijo led a pack of 100 animals through present-day Aztec on the what is considered to be the first documented round trip between the Four Corners and San Bernardino, Calif...more

Ranch Radio Song Of The Day #1155

The other tune that's been on my mind is Brenda Lee's 1965 recording of Too Many Rivers.  The tune is on her The Definitive Collection CD.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

They've finally completed repairs on the Obamacare website.

If you need to sign up, or would just like to check it out, you can do that by first clicking here .
­Once you're at the website ­ simply click on the "Apply Now" button to get started.

Slaying of Arizona rancher is still a mystery

Rob Krentz
by Dennis Wagner

    On a breezy spring morning, a red ATV rolled across southeastern Arizona’s border badlands beneath the mystical Chiricahua Mountains.
    A gray-haired rancher in classic cowboy attire — jeans, boots, denim vest and shirt — was at the wheel accompanied by his dog, Blue.
    Robert Krentz, 58, was checking stock ponds and waterlines on the 35,000-acre spread not far from where Apache leader Geronimo surrendered to the U.S. cavalry. The Krentz clan began raising cattle there more than a century ago, shortly before Mexican Revolution leader Pancho Villa prowled nearby.
    In modern times, the sparsely populated San Bernardino Valley bordering New Mexico and Sonora became a magnet for bird-watchers and a haven for smugglers.
    Krentz pulled to a stop as he noticed a man apparently injured. The rancher made a garbled radio call to his brother, Phil — something about an illegal alien ... hurt ... call Border Patrol.
    It was about 10:30 a.m., March 27, 2010. What happened that morning, as shots echoed across the grassy range, would roil Arizona politics and fuel the U.S. immigration debate for years to come.
    One day earlier, Phil had put Border Patrol agents onto a group of suspected drug runners on the family’s land, resulting in eight arrests and the seizure of 200 pounds of marijuana.
    After Krentz’s broken radio transmission, family members almost immediately launched a search, and enlisted help within hours.
    Rob was found just before midnight, his body lying on the ground with his feet still inside the all-terrain vehicle. Two 9 mm slugs had fatally penetrated his lungs. Another bullet wounded his dog, which had to be euthanized.
    Krentz carried a rifle and pistol in his Polaris Ranger, but apparently never got a chance to use them. After being shot, he managed to drive about 1,000 feet before collapsing.
    The only immediate sign of an assailant was a set of footprints. Trackers followed them nearly 20 miles south to Mexico, where the trail vanished.
    ...Yet, after almost four years of investigation, Cochise County sheriff’s homicide report No. 10-05099 fails to identify a perpetrator, let alone establish motive or nationality of the killer.
     Newly released documents offer multiple theories, identify possible suspects and expose allegations of a sordid smuggling culture along America’s border with Mexico. But they fail to answer the anguishing question from family, friends and the nation: Who killed Rob Krentz?

DOI Secretary signs historic agreement with Oklahoma tribe

As part of President Obama’s commitment to self-determination of tribal nations, Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell and Assistant Secretary of Indian Affairs Kevin K. Washburn today joined Citizen Potawatomi Nation Chairman John Barrett to formally approve tribal leasing regulations that will help spur investment and commercial development on the nation’s trust lands in central Oklahoma. The Helping Expedite and Advance Responsible Tribal Homeownership Act (HEARTH Act), signed by President Obama in July 2012, restores the authority of federally recognized tribes to develop and implement their own laws governing the long-term leasing of Indian lands for residential, business and other purposes. Upon one-time approval of these tribal regulations by the Department of the Interior, tribes have the authority to process land leases without Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) approval, greatly expediting the approval of leases for homes and small businesses in Indian Country...more 

In the article we have these quotes:

“The Citizen Potawatomi Nation now has the authority to decide how it wants to do business on its lands, making it easier for families to do things like buy and build houses or open businesses in the communities where they have lived for generations,” said Secretary Jewell, who also serves as chair of the White House Council on Native American Affairs.  “Today’s action encourages economic development on Indian lands, generating investment, new jobs and revenues."

Do you think we'll ever see an article with quotes like these?

"The American Rancher now has the authority to decide how it wants to do business on federal lands, making it easier for families to construct range improvements, adjust numbers and timing of grazing, type of livestock to be grazed and other management practices on ranches where they have lived for generations," said Secretary Jewell, who also serves as a member of the White House Council on Rural American Affairs.  "Today's action encourages development of ranches on federal lands generating investment, new jobs and revenues."

Well do you?

Oil tankers, not icebergs, a water scarcity solution?

Towing icebergs to ease water scarcity is yesterday; transporting water in supertankers is today.
What if ready-to-drink filtered water, 500,000 tons at a time, could be consistently shipped across the world in old oil vessels and the effort prove financially viable? Thorsteinn Gudnason believes it can happen — very soon. Bulk shipments of water involve tremendous overhead and the trick is pulling a profit, but Gudnason, managing director of Reykjavik-based Aqua Omnis, says his company is ready to transport water wherever it’s needed. “We [Iceland] have an abundance of high-quality spring water underneath our surface which we are offering to the world … It flows from Iceland into the ocean, quenching no one’s thirst.” From Bloomberg: “Iceland has vast amounts of spring water naturally filtered by mountians and lava terrain for hundreds of years that otherwise goes to waste…” According to Gudnason, the filtration process will allow for delivery of potable water. In other words, the supertankers, like giant kegs, can be tapped on arrival at whatever country buys Aqua Omnis water. Hauling water across the ocean has always been full of promise, but has remained a financial dead-end, yet Aqua Omnis believes their approach will work and claims investors in the Arabian Gulf have bought in: “It will cost $300 million to start the initial project including a minimum of seven ships, fuel and mooring equipment,” reports Bloomberg...more

Monarch Butterflies Reaching Mexico Later and in Smaller Numbers

The monarch butterflies that winter in Mexico’s forests after a journey of 5,000 kilometers (3,100 miles) across Canada and the United States are arriving later and in smaller numbers this year than in past seasons. The Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve, which is located in the eastern part of Michoacan state and the western part of Mexico state, opened on Friday for the start of the season, but officials are concerned because of the small number of butterflies arriving, with their arrivals delayed by 10 days. “We are estimating, more or less, that we have about 50 percent fewer as of this time .... The figures are not very encouraging,” reserve director Gloria Tavera Alonso told Efe. Monarch butterflies (danaus plexippus) begin their migration each year in early October, flying from southern Canada across the United States and arriving in their Mexican winter homes around the second week of November. A drop of 59 percent was registered last season in the areas occupied by the colonies that winter in Mexico, the lowest level in the 20 years that officials have been tracking the migration, with the situation appearing worse this season...more

Russian Prison Stuns Captain of Greenpeace’s Bombed Ship

The captain of a Greenpeace ship released on bail after two months of detention in a Russian prison following an Arctic protest said he and his fellow activists remain in shock at their treatment. American Peter Willcox, who was also in charge of Greenpeace’s Rainbow Warrior when it was sunk in Auckland in 1985 by a bomb planted by the French intelligence service, said the organization again found itself in the crosshairs of a government bent on throttling the environmental group. “There is a similarity between the two cases,” with both the French and Russian governments targeting Greenpeace to prevent it from carrying out its campaigns, Willcox said by phone yesterday from St. Petersburg. In New Zealand, “the loss of life was the most difficult thing for us to deal with and it just doesn’t get any worse than that. Though I have to admit that this, for the people involved, was quite trying.” Russia has faced worldwide protests and was ordered on Nov. 22 by a United Nations court to release the Arctic Sunrise and the crew after impounding Greenpeace’s ship and initially charging the 30 campaigners with piracy, which is punishable by as much as 15 years in prison. Prosecutors since cut the charges to hooliganism, which carries a maximum sentence of seven years...more

Animal activist cited for cruelty in Colorado cattle case

An investigation into a cattle company near Kersey has led to several people being cited for animal abuse, including the animal activist who turned video footage of the alleged abuse over to authorities. Taylor Radig, who has been associated with animal rights organization Compassion Over Killing, worked as a temporary employee at Quanah Cattle Co. near Kersey from mid-July to September 2013. During that time, Radig filmed hours of alleged cattle abuse at the company and turned her videos into the Weld County Sheriff’s Office two months after she stopped working there, according to a WCSO news release. When talking to investigators, Radig referred to herself as a “contractor” for the nonprofit animal advocacy organization, which is based in Washington, D.C. By not reporting the alleged abuse in a timely manner, Radig was seen as negligent and cited for animal cruelty, a Class 1 misdemeanor. She’s also believed to have participated in the cattle abuse incidents reported to the sheriff’s office, the news release said...more

A Day That Will Live in Infamy

Gun Owners of America

Last Thursday, November 21, is a day that will live in infamy.

Harry Reid pulled the trigger on the "nuclear option" -- a process whereby 52 Senate Democrats voted to change the Senate rules by brute force.  (See the vote here, where “YEA” was the pro-gun vote.)

He did this for the ostensible purpose of packing the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals with three anti-gun judges -- one of which (Robert Wilkins) has held that the Second Amendment doesn't protect the right to purchase firearms, just the right to possess them. 

But make no mistake about it:  The Senate now effectively has no rules.  This means that, if Supreme Court "swing vote" Anthony Kennedy were to die or resign tomorrow, Obama would shove through another virulently anti-gun nominee. 

This would mean that Obama’s lasting legacy would be to reverse the Heller and McDonald Supreme Court decisions.  And, as far as the Court is concerned, the Second Amendment would be nothing, other than the right of a state to raise a militia. 

So a vote for the nuclear option on Thursday was a vote to begin the process of effectively repealing the Second Amendment. 

Don't believe your lying anti-gun senator -- the one who also told you that you could "keep your insurance."  In an effort to cover their rear ends, Thursday's rules change purports to exempt Supreme Court nominees from the 50-vote non-filibusterable procedure.

But one would have to be a fool to think that 52 Democrats who would blow up the Senate over an appeals court would not do the same if the balance on the Supreme Court were at stake.

And even worse, before the ink was dry on the tally sheet, Barack Obama commended the Senate and mourned the fact that filibusters had blocked his gun ban and gun registration scheme. What Obama is clearly calling for is for the same "nuclear option" to be used to pass comprehensive gun control. 

If this were not enough, the Senate's number 3 Democrat -- New York Senator Charles Schumer -- in the guise of renewing the plastic gun ban, tried to sneak through unread legislation which would effectively ban many types of gun manufacturing. [The Senate won't come back for two weeks, so we'll cover this bill in more detail in a subsequent alert.]

But the bottom line is that the Senate rules can no longer protect us.  Our only alternative is to get Harry Reid out of the Majority Leader's position before Anthony Kennedy resigns. 

And the only way to do that is to make sure that Mark Begich (D-AK), Mary Landrieu (D-LA), Kay Hagan (D-NC), Mark Warner (D-VA), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Al Franken (D-MN), Tom Udall (D-NM), Mark Udall (D-CO), and Jeff Merkley (D-OR) don't have their jobs renewed. 

ACTION: Contact each of your Senators.  Thank him if he voted right on the nuclear option. Castigate him if he voted wrong. The correct message will be sent, based on how your Senators voted on Thursday.

Go here for a pre-written letters.  Both NM Senators voted with Harry Reid.


AK-47s, Accordions And Angels Of Death: Narcocorridos Hit The Big Screen

The documentary Narco Cultura paints a sobering picture from both sides of the U.S./ Mexico border, in a drug war that has claimed more than 60,000 victims in the past seven years. The film cuts back and forth between gruesome murders in Mexico and the culture of narcocorridos — ballads that revel in the exploits of drug cartels. Filmmaker Shaul Schwarz says he was fascinated by the juxtaposition: "This two-sided monster and how it's so linked and so connected and so bizarre." As a photojournalist, the Israeli-born New Yorker had covered conflicts and disasters around the world for National Geographic, Newsweek and other publications. For his first film, he and his sound engineer traveled to Juarez, just over the border from El Paso, Texas. Another night, another murder. Behind the yellow police tape, family members wail, and onlooking children converse about AK-47s and the victim being "liquidated." As always, crime-scene investigator Richi Soto is there to collect the bodies. "People hear the sirens and see us as angels of death," the soft-spoken Soto says as he drives through the streets of his hometown. He wears a mask over his face to conceal his identity from dealers and their informants and hit men. We see him tagging bodies in the morgue, collecting bullets and classifying evidence that simply gets warehoused. Cut to Los Angeles, where a young nightclub crowd is partying and singing along to the latest narcocorrido. "We're bloodthirsty, crazy, and we like to kill," they sing. Onstage, the boisterous members of the group Los Bukanas de Culiacan wear bandoliers of bullets and brandish a prop bazooka. The group's enthusiastic lead singer and songwriter, Edgar Quintero, is the film's other protagonist, a young Mexican-American born in L.A...more

Here's the official trailer for the documentary:

Migrants clash with U.S. Border Patrol agents at Mexican border

More than 100 people attempting to illegally cross into the United States from Mexico over the weekend threw rocks and bottles at U.S. Border Patrol agents trying to stop them, the agency said Monday. No one was seriously injured. The attempted crossing occurred a short distance from the San Ysidro Port of Entry in California. The group ignored orders to stop from a Border Patrol agent standing watch just north of the border. The agent fired pellets containing pepper powder in an unsuccessful attempt to stop the group's advance, the Border Patrol said. Several other agents responded. "The crowd became increasingly unruly and began throwing rocks and bottles," the agency said. Several agents were struck, including one who was hit in head with a full water bottle. The response of force from the border agents "eventually caused the group to return to Mexico and disperse." No one was arrested. CNN

Ranch Radio Song Of The Day #1154

A couple of tunes were on my mind this weekend, and they were both from the 60s.  The first one is Jerry Lee Lewis' 1969 recording of Once More With Feeling.  Mark this down as a 60s week.

Monday, November 25, 2013

NSA infected 50,000 computer networks worldwide with malware

The US’ National Security Agency reportedly hacked 50,000 computer systems globally and infected them with malware, according to the classified documents revealed by whistleblower Edward Snowden. The latest claims come from a digital presentation slide, which show a world map highlighting hard computer networks and ‘world-wide implants’ under the category. CNE (Computer Network Exploitation), NSA jargon for malware infections. According to Mashable, NSA’s elite hacker team conducted these sophisticated spy attacks on networks including the one against Belgian telecom company Belgacom that was carried out by NSA’s UK ally, the GCHQ. The report said that CNE includes enabling actions and intelligence collection via computer networks that exploit data gathered from target or enemy information systems or networks. The ‘implants’ act as digital ‘sleeper cells’ that can be activated with a single push of a button. The revelations by Snowden have severely impacted US ties with its allies apart from experiencing loss of trust from its own citizens...Source


Body Count From Mexico Mass Graves Rises To 42 As Grim Search Continues

The number of murder victims unearthed in mass graves in a small town to the west of Mexico this month has risen to 42, as authorities extend investigations in a troubled region of the drug-ravaged country where cartels are battling each other for turf control. Earlier this month, 14 bodies were reportedly found in clandestine graves in the municipality of La Barca, located on the border between the states of Jalisco and Michoacan. As police scoured the area for clues into the killings, the death roll was revised earlier this week to 30. Later on Sunday (November 24), Mexico's Attorney General reported the current body count stands at 42. The discovery of the mass graves comes amid an explosion of violence in the western Mexican state of Michoacan where soldiers have been deployed to wrestle back law and order. The notorious Knights Templar drug cartel has been fighting civilian-led vigilante groups, some with ties to other cartels. Authorities reported bodies found in the graves showed bullet wounds and possible signs of torture, with two women said to be among the victims. The bodies have been reportedly taken to Mexico City for DNA testing. Federal police are scouring the area for clues into the killings with more bodies expected to be unearthed...more

Mexican drug lords' kids brag wealth on social media

The Twitter and Facebook accounts of individuals presumed to be the children of Sinaloa drug cartel bosses -- Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman and Ismael "El Mayo" Zambada -- boast photographs of possessions, media reports said. In some of these social networking or twitter accounts these possessions include luxury watches, SUVs, automobiles, gold-plated firearms, bags of marijuana, a lion and a cheetah in the window of an SUV. Investigators were trying to confirm the authenticity of the posts, reported the Mexico City daily El Universal citing Attorney General's Office representatives. The photos and comments must be dealt with cautiously "since any person can post profiles or images; nevertheless, it has not been ruled out that the narcos' kids did it," Attorney General's office spokespersons said. The newspaper published samples of the content posted on the social media sites under the names of Alfredo Guzman and Ivan Guzman Salazar, presumed to be the sons of Chapo Guzman and Serafin Zambada, one of the sons of El Mayo Zambada. Serafin Zambada was arrested last week in Nogales, Arizona, by the US authorities. The 23-year-old Serafin Zambada had the most extensive social media presence, even posting a photograph of himself with soccer star Cuauhtemoc Blanco, who denied he knew the drug lord's son. "I have nothing to say, any bastard can take photos, I don't even know him," the soccer star said. The person claiming to be Serafin Zambada also posted photos on Twitter of luxury watches, SUVs, automobiles, gold-plated firearms, bags of marijuana, and other things. The Facebook page of Serafin Zambada has photos of the executions of suspected informants and images of Sinaloa cartel members showing off their large-calibre weapons...more

Report: Violence, inmates rule in Mexico’s prisons

Mexico's human rights commission says violent incidents have increased and inmates rule in many of Mexico's prisons, a sign of corruption and the lack of resources facing the corrections system. Commission President Raul Plascencia says incidents such as riots, homicides and prison breaks have increased from 52 for all of 2011 to 119 so far this year. The commission released a diagnosis of the system Tuesday based on visits and interviews at 101 of Mexico's most populated prisons. The report found 65 of those facilities are run by inmates, not authorities. Such facilities are found predominantly in states that have suffered in recent years from high rates of drug violence. The commission says the prisons surveyed for the report house 80 percent of Mexico's nearly 250,000 inmates. AP

Senator: Sports Stadiums 'at Risk from...Sea-Level Rise Effects of Climate Change'

Senator  Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) warns sports stadiums are at risk from the "sea level rise effects of climate change," and that climate changespecifically threatens hockey and skiing. "We see significant sports facilities, the palaces of - of sport that are at risk from the storm, climate, sea-level rise effects of climate change," Sen. Whitehouse said today following a closed-door climate discussion with executives from the NFL, NHL and NBA. He said the threat to hockey is that people will no longer be able to play outdoors on frozen ponds. "Without cold enough weather for frozen ponds, the kind of hockey that you play out of doors with your friends gets a little bit harder to achieve." Whitehouse also suggested climate change will prevent his family from continuing to go skiing in Rhode Island. "I took my kids skiing at Yawgoo Valley ski slopes in Rhode Island. The New York Times recently reported that we can expect all the ski slopes in Connecticut and Massachusetts to be gone. "Obviously, given Rhode Island's location, if that's true of Connecticut and Massachusetts, that will also be unfortunately true of Rhode Island."...more

Well, if the NY Times says it then by all means wreck the whole U.S. economy so the Senator's family can go skiing. 

Sally Jewell urges public, private, political support for conservation

U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell hiked Boneyard Beach —the eroded northern end of this island where dead trees poke out of the sand — and called it a great example of climate change and erosion at work. “It changes your perspective on man’s relationship with nature,” she said Wednesday. “We should be paying attention to what we’re seeing on the ground. We should be listening to the science. ... We need to adapt to the changes and understand what we can do to mitigate them.” Jewell said she would like every school child to see this picturesque spot in the Cape Romain National Wildlife Refuge because it illustrates how nature changes and how futile it is to try to fight that. “It’s clear that Mother Nature wins every time,” she said.  The hike capped a full day for Jewell, who paid her first visit to South Carolina since becoming the nation’s 51st Secretary of the Interior in April.  She began with an early morning flight over the refuge’s 22 miles of coastline, then met with about 50 representatives of businesses, nonprofits and government agencies to talk about conservation, and ended with a tour of this pristine barrier island reachable only by boat. And she carried many messages, from the reality of climate change to importance of public-private collaboration to promote conservation, particularly of longleaf pine, to the urgency that Congress end the sequester and support the nation’s Land and Water Conservation Fund. Jewell did not need to step foot on an eroded beach to understand how rising sea levels and erosion have affected the state. As she inspected the coastline from the air, she said she saw a lot of beach homes and other buildings vulnerable in the next storm. “You’ve already seen a one-foot increase in sea level rise in this community over the last 100 years,” she said. “A lot of development is vulnerable.
I did encourage the community to think about that and to make sure you’re working alongside developers to develop in a smart way that takes into account the risks of sea level rise.” She noted swamps and wetlands are very useful in protecting communities from storms and talked briefly about how federally underwritten flood insurance has made coastal development more economically viable. After her airplane tour, Jewell spent more than an hour at the Sewee Visitors Center listening to a variety of people involved in government and conservation, from Conway to Darien, Ga. She said she came to this part of the state because of its track record of collaboration — between government and business on all levels — to promote conservation. With gridlock in Washington and future federal funding of conservation in doubt, Jewell said such collaboration will continue to be important — and that the federal government must do its share, specifically by funding the Land and Water Conservation Fund...more


Governor finds major ally on grouse, power line

Gov Butch Otter
Idaho Republican Gov. Butch Otter had a single request for Interior Secretary Sally Jewell when they met in Washington in late October.  "What the governor said is, 'What I really want is a seat at the table,' " said Otter's chief counsel, Tom Perry, who was at the meeting. "And Jewell said, 'Yeah, you've got one.' " In the two weeks following the meeting, the Bureau of Land Management announced actions that demonstrated Idaho had won that seat. Now, the state and the feds must decide how far they are willing to go to keep working together on two of the most sweeping and contentious land management issues in Southern Idaho. First, BLM chose "co-preferred" alternatives for a sage grouse conservation plan to amend 21 resource management plans and eight Forest Service land use plans over 10 million acres of public land in Idaho and Montana. One of the two alternatives was the Idaho sage grouse plan written by a team Otter created. The plans are designed to help keep the sage grouse from becoming an endangered species, a decision that could limit livestock grazing, energy development and growth across the West. U.S. District Judge B. Lynn Winmill has set 2015 as the deadline for the federal agency to deliver sage grouse plans that cover the entire region, dictating decisions this coming spring. "It is essential that the state and the federal agencies pull in the same direction," said Will Whelan, public affairs director for the Nature Conservancy of Idaho. A week after the grouse plan decision, Jewell announced a final recommendation for the 990-mile Gateway West Transmission Line across Wyoming and Idaho - including a decision to defer choosing the route for two lines near the Morley Nelson Snake River Birds of Prey area south of Kuna. The BLM announced it would resurrect discussions among stakeholders to work on finding alternatives to routes through Kuna and across private land in Owyhee County that local and state officials oppose. But the BLM decision on the Gateway route did include corridors through Power and Cassia counties opposed by local officials. The BLM said it simply had no other choice because it has to avoid high-quality sagebrush habitat critical to the survival of the grouse. Otter's version of the sage grouse plan would have allowed the alternative routes preferred by local officials, though with more costs and risks to the birds. "If we have a reasonable alternative that is feasible, we should have control," said Doug Balfour, a Pocatello attorney who represents Power and Cassia counties...more

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Habitat spat

The greater sage-grouse, a favorite of shotgunners and fanciers of colorful bird behavior, is teetering on the brink of extinction in the American West, according to environmental organizations. It’s a question the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is scheduled to resolve in 2015 by deciding whether to list the bird as endangered under the Endangered Species Act. Efforts to save the bird under the act, however, could imperil the fragile economies of rural areas such as northwestern Colorado, say county commissioners, residents and energy-industry officials who maintain that coal mining and drilling for natural gas are every bit as threatened as the greater sage-grouse. The stakes surrounding the greater sage-grouse are the “equivalent of the oil shale shutdown” in 1982 for the affected counties, said former U.S. Rep. Scott McInnis, now the executive director of the Associated Governments of Northwest Colorado. That’s a bit apocalyptic, said Luke Schafer of Conservation Colorado. The Bureau of Land Management, which administers nearly half of Colorado’s 4 million acres of greater sage-grouse habitat, is accepting through Dec. 2 public comment on an environmental impact statement and proposals to change the way the agency manages land. The BLM’s greater sage-grouse decision, due by Sept. 30, 2014, stands to affect about 6 percent of Colorado’s nearly 67 million acres, or nearly a quarter of the northwest quadrant of the state. That same quadrant also is home to some of Colorado’s most productive coal mines, a giant storehouse of natural gas and associated liquids far beneath the rough and arid exterior tailor-made for a bird that depends on sagebrush for food and cover. Garfield County Commissioner Tom Jankovsky, speaking in October in Rifle, said the development of natural resources in Garfield County worth $34 billion hangs in the balance, to say nothing of $406 million in property tax revenue to the county over 20 years. Garfield County commissioned its own $200,000 study of the greater sage-grouse in hopes of nudging the BLM toward placing its confidence in local officials to find ways to accommodate the bird and the energy industry. One potential element of the BLM approach to preserving the greater sage-grouse is the use of a four-mile buffer around leks, or mating grounds, for the bird. The buffer was proposed by the BLM’s national technical team of experts using observations and data from rolling high prairie similar to the habitat of Wyoming and Moffat County. Such a buffer wouldn’t work on the higher-elevation Roan Plateau, Jankovsky said. The plateau is fragmented by erosion on its steep slopes, and forests of aspen on one side and conifer on the other — both unfriendly to the grouse — bracket the bird’s habitat. “The biggest threat to the bird in our area is the encroachment of pinyon-juniper forest” into the sage lands in which the grouse thrives, Jankovsky said. Forested lands threaten birds because they provide vantage points on which predators such as raptors can scout for the ground-hugging grouse...more