Friday, February 27, 2015

Tougher ozone standards could snuff out the recovery, businesses warn

The business community is ramping up its opposition to tighter ozone standards proposed by the Obama administration, warning that these efforts would be devastating to the economy. The National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) released a study Thursday which concludes that revising the standard from the current 75 parts per billion (ppb) down to 65 ppb would reduce the nation’s GDP by $140 billion annually and $1.7 trillion from 2017 to 2040. It would also cost businesses $1.1 trillion to comply with the new regulations, the group argues. The study, conducted by National Economic Research Associates Economic Consulting and commissioned by NAM, also has business leaders fearing the tougher standards could snuff out a nascent economic recovery. The study argues the new standards would result in 1.4 million fewer jobs per year on average through 2040. For groups such as NAM, that is reason to keep the current regulations in place. “Manufacturers in the United States are in the midst of a resurgence that’s fueling job growth and economic recovery nationwide, but the proposed tightening of the ozone standard puts our momentum at great risk,” NAM President and CEO Jay Timmons said. “This data confirm our long-held concern that revisions to the ozone standard represent one of the most significant threats, not just to our manufacturing sector, but to our economy at large.”...more

Second extinction? No, Mexican wolf thrives

by Robert Mansell

At Arizona Game and Fish Commission meetings, we frequently hear public comments about how the commission's actions will lead to the "second extinction" of the Mexican wolf.

But with the recent announcement that the Arizona-New Mexico wolf population grew by 31 percent last year, isn't it time for naysayers and everyone interested in Mexican wolf recovery to recognize the program's success?...

Our biologists, who manage wildlife based on science, expected this more rapid growth to occur as the percentage of wild-born wolves increased. When the majority of a re-established wolf population is wild-born, survival rates increase and populations grow exponentially. We've now achieved the reintroduction project's original objective of 100 wolves with a population that is 100 percent wild born.
The value of having the Mexican wolf designated as a 10(j) non-essential, experimental population under the Endangered Species Act cannot be overlooked. This designation gives the field team the flexibility to try new methods, such as last year's successful cross-fostering of pups from a genetically valuable pack with little experience raising young to placing pups with an experienced pack. New techniques like this provide an important means for bolstering the wolf population and increasing genetic diversity.

Full recovery, though, can only be accomplished when the Mexican wolf is recovered in Mexico, where 90 percent of their historic habitat occurs.

...Although we have heard public comment to the contrary, the newly revised 10(j) rule guiding Mexican wolf recovery is a major step in the right direction.

Robert Mansell is chairman of the Arizona Game and Fish Commission.

Montana bill to demand royalties from federal land sales advances

Does the federal government owe Montana for a century of public land sales? A bill brought by Senator Jennifer Fielder (R-Thompson Falls) and endorsed by the Senate Thursday says it does. Fielder says the law that made Montana a state, the Enabling Act, calls for the state to get five percent of any public land sales. That past and future money would benefit the permanent school trust. However, the U.S. Forest Service disagrees with that interpretation. The amount of money in question is not clear, but the Forest Service has sold some 70,000 acres in Montana since statehood, much of it to improve access to lands or resolve checkerboard ownership. Senator Pat Connell (R-Hamilton), opposing the measure, said that much of that transferred land could have been part of land exchanges and doesn't represent sales that could produce the royalty. The bill directs the Attorney General's office to look into the sales and demand the money, plus interest, from federal agencies. The Senate endorsed the measure on a 34-16 vote...more

Forest service to Wyoming: Bighorn herd in legislative debate isn't a concern

Federal officials aren't concerned about a western Wyoming bighorn sheep herd that has become a point of debate in Cheyenne. Legislators are working to protect Wyoming's domestic sheepherders after a recent U.S. Forest Service action to limit domestic sheep grazing in Idaho's Payette National Forest.  Nora Rasure, U.S. Forest Service regional forester, said state lawmakers have nothing to worry about in a recent letter to Gov. Matt Mead. Concern from both parties rose from a proposal to remove bighorn sheep from the Darby Mountain region near Afton. Rasure said the current bighorn sheep management plan identifies the Darby region's sheep as a "non-emphasis" herd.  "We do not have any current desire to address risks that domestic sheep may represent to that herd," she wrote in the letter to Gov. Mead...more

The Forest Service says they have no current desire to protect bighorns from domestic sheep in the area that has a "non-emphasis" herd.  Future desires may change and "non-emphasis" is just an administrative designation subject to change.  Act now legislature, act now.

Family of Utah boy killed by bear reaches settlement with state

The parents of a Pleasant Grove boy who was dragged from a campsite and killed by a bear in 2007 has settled a wrongful-death lawsuit with the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources, according to an attorney for the family. Samuel Ives, 11, was killed June 17, 2007, during a Father's Day camping trip near the Timpooneke Campground in American Fork Canyon. His body, which had been mauled by a black bear, was found about 400 yards from the family campsite. The bear was found and killed the next day. The Ives family sued the state and DWR in 2008, claiming the state was liable for the boy's death because officials failed to warn the public that a dangerous bear was in the area and had attacked other campers. "Sam's death was 100 percent preventable," the boy's mother, Rebecca Ives, told The Salt Lake Tribune on Tuesday. "The reason that we were so enraged when this happened was not because a bear attacked and killed our son, it was because the federal government and the state had been notified that they had a black bear out there that needed to be put down ... They failed to act and the result was that my son was killed." The case originally was tossed out by state judges in 2009 and 2011, but the Utah Supreme Court overturned one dismissal in 2013, saying the state had a duty to protect the young boy because DWR officials knew about the bear. The settlement agreement, hammered out through discussions during the past few months, awards the family financial damages, but fails to require the state to enact new policies or practices related to nuisance wildlife that may pose a threat, Tyler Young, an attorney for the family said Monday. "Our hope was that the state would implement a 'Sam Alert' for bears that had shown aggressive behaviors toward humans," Young said. "We weren't able to get anything like that." Young declined to disclose the financial terms of the agreement but said it is less than the statutory cap of $583,900 outlined in the state's governmental immunity law. Missy Larsen, spokeswoman for the Utah attorney general's office, which represented DWR in the wrongful-death lawsuit, confirmed the settlement Tuesday. Larsen said the agreement includes only financial compensation and does not require DWR to make any changes to its policy or procedures...more

Wildlife agencies plan to restore grizzlies in Washington

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the National Park Service and Washington state agencies are planning to restore grizzly bears to the North Cascades. The Everett Daily Herald reports the agencies plan to hold public meetings next month in six cities. The input will help the agencies decide how to bring back the endangered species. An impact statement on the recovery plan would address public safety, livestock predation and the possible effects on business and recreation. Most grizzly bears in the state were killed by settlers. It’s estimated there may be fewer than 20 of the big bears living in the North Cascades south of the Canadian border. Meetings are scheduled from March 3 to March 11 in Winthrop, Okanogan, Wenatchee, Cle Elum, Seattle and Bellingham. AP

DOE, Pentagon considering new uses for Nev. site -- lawmakers

House Republicans say two federal agencies are planning to use the remote Yucca Mountain site in southern Nevada for activities other than its congressionally authorized use as a repository for spent fuel from nuclear reactors. "We have learned that officials from the Department of Energy and the Defense Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA) have discussed the possibility of conducting activities at or near the Yucca Mountain site that are not related to the statutorily required uses for the site and adjacent lands," three senior House Republicans wrote in a letter to Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz. House Energy and Commerce Chairman Fred Upton of Michigan, Environment and the Economy Chairman John Shimkus of Illinois and Rep. Tim Murphy of Pennsylvania signed the letter. The Republicans -- outspoken proponents of ensuring that Yucca Mountain is used for the storage of hot radioactive waste -- said they are concerned about the legal and policy implications of any other use. They asked Moniz to explain what is being planned or discussed and how this could affect the use of Yucca Mountain as a repository...more

How the NSA Stole the Keys to Your Phone

By Julian Sanchez
A blockbuster story at The Intercept Thursday revealed that a joint team of hackers from the National Security Agency and its British counterpart, the Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ), broke into the systems of one of the world’s largest manufacturers of cell phone SIM cards in order to steal the encryption keys that secure wireless communications for hundreds of mobile carriers—including companies like AT&T, T-Mobile, Verizon, and Sprint.  To effect the heist, the agencies targeted employees of the Dutch company Gemalto, scouring e-mails and Facebook messages for information that would enable them to compromise the SIM manufacturer’s networks in order to make surreptitious copies of the keys before they were transmitted to the carriers. Many aspects of this ought to be extremely disturbing.

First, this is a concrete reminder that, as former NSA director Michael Hayden recently acknowledged, intelligence agencies don’t spy on “bad people”; they spy on “interesting people.”  In this case, they spied extensively on law-abiding technicians employed by a law-abiding foreign corporation, then hacked that corporation in apparent  violation of Dutch law. We know this was hardly a unique case—one NSA hacker boasted in Snowden documents diclosed nearly a year ago about “hunting sysadmins”—but it seems particularly poetic coming on the heels of the recent Sony hack, properly condemned by the U.S. government.  Dutch legislators quoted in the story are outraged, as well they should be.  Peaceful private citizens and companies in allied nations, engaged in no wrongdoing, should not have to worry that the United States is trying to break into their computers.

Second, indiscriminate theft of mobile encryption keys bypasses one of the few checks on government surveillance by enabling wiretaps without the assistance of mobile carriers. On the typical model for wiretaps, a government presents the carrier with some form of legal process specifying which accounts or lines are targeted for surveillance, and the company then provides those communications to the government.  As the European telecom Vodaphone disclosed last summer, however, some governments insist on being granted “direct access” to the stream of communications so that they can conduct their wiretaps without going through the carrier.  The latter architecture, of course, is far more susceptible to abuse, because it removes the only truly independent, nongovernmental layer of review from the collection process. A spy agency that wished to abuse its power under the former model—by conducting wiretaps without legal authority or inventing pretexts to target political opponents—would at least have to worry that lawyers or technicians at the telecommunications provider might detect something amiss. But any entity armed with mobile encryption keys effectively enjoys direct access: they can vacuum up cellular signals out of the air and listen to any or all of the calls they intercept, subject only to internal checks or safeguards.

Lincoln Nation Forest management planning begins March 25

Staff of the Lincoln National Forest are beginning a four-year journey to draft a new forest plan and the first community meeting for the Smokey Bear Ranger District is set for March 25. "The National Forest Management Act of 1976 requires every national forest or grassland managed by the Forest Service to develop and maintain an effective land management plan, also known as a forest plan," District Ranger Dave Warnack told Lincoln County commissioners at their meeting last week. "Plainly speaking, the forest plan is a document that provides guidance for the management of all resources and activities on the forest. The service contracted with community outreach specialists who have worked on several forest plans throughout the country, to help the district conduct the first meeting, he said. Staff wants feedback from groups and individuals who have worked with the Forest Service in a collaborative fashion on whether the experience was positive or negative, "and how can we keep it more positive and secondly, how do you wish to be involved. The's a spectrum, some just want to be informed and some want to roll up their sleeves and be part of it, (present) ideas and be a partner. "We'll be trying to gauge that and figure out who wants want. The third thing is tying to lay out the process so they will know what to expect over the next four years." Commission Chairman Preston Stone said he wants the county's Land Use and Rural Affairs Committee members involved in the plan, along with consideration of provisions in the county's existing land use plan...more

Do you see all those trees around the sign?  Huge swaths of this land should never have been reserved as a national forest.

Smokey Bear was real? Author from Boca pens tale of real-life cub

Nearly 65 years ago, a teenage Karen Signell gazed at the bear cub lolling in a tree inside his exhibit at the National Zoo and wondered why his eyes seemed so sad.  Rescued from a forest fire in New Mexico in May 1950, the orphaned little brown bear had been flown to the zoo in Washington, D.C., to become a living symbol of Smokey Bear, the blue jeans and ranger hat-wearing character that popularized the phrase, "Only YOU can prevent wildfires."Signell, a born animal lover, knew about Smokey's life but still wanted to know more about the bear. So she decided to write his story. And just months ago, the now 79-year-old Boca Raton woman published the U.S. Forest Service-licensed novel that's been a lifetime in the making. Called "Smokey Bear: The Cub Who Left His Pawprints on History," Signell's book details the bear's life based on years of research, including meeting with a man whose family helped heal Smokey's burned paws and belly, visiting the mountain where he was found and reading endlessly about the campaign he brought to life. The book is told from Smokey's perspective. Don Bell, who helped his parents and sister care for the cub at their Santa Fe, N.M., home, initially wasn't sure about that approach. He thought it might come out "hokey."  "I've lived with this thing since 1950, so when I first heard what she was going to do, I thought, 'Well, OK, I'll go along,'" said Bell, 79, of Las Cruces, N.M. "After she got it all put together and everything and finished it up, I read it and I think she did a pretty damn good job." He was around 15 when his dad came home with the then-5-pound bear. A cowboy turned game warden, Ray Bell, Don Bell's father, was stationed in New Mexico's Capitan Mountains when the forest fire that injured Smokey broke out. The Bell family was constantly taking in wild animals, so Don Bell didn't think much of the "cute little guy" who slept in a rabbit cage on the back porch. But the story of the rescued cub would become a national phenomenon. Smokey's arrival at the capital airport drew hundreds of reporters, photographers and onlookers, and he appeared in newspapers across the country...more

Thursday, February 26, 2015

League of Conservatio Voters scorecard for NM Delegation

Jewell-Murkowski feud could hurt Interior's funding, priorities

Phil Taylor, E&E reporter

Interior Secretary Sally Jewell's relationship with a key Alaska senator remained on thin ice yesterday, complicating Jewell's efforts to boost agency funding and advance the Obama administration's legislative agenda.

Jewell told reporters yesterday that she and Energy and Natural Resources Chairwoman Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) have maintained "a constructive relationship."

That's despite Murkowski's public attacks on the secretary's recent decisions to set aside Alaska lands and waters from oil and gas drilling and reject a key road.

"Murkowski is a very strong advocate for her state," Jewell told reporters after a 2½-hour budget hearing before Murkowski's panel.

But Murkowski didn't share the love.

She blasted Jewell for "depriving [Alaskans] of jobs, revenue, security and prosperity" and being aloof to Alaskans' need to access federally protected lands.

"The chairman is furious and bewildered," said Murkowski spokesman Robert Dillon. "I don't know how constructive it is when the secretary clearly has not shown a real interest in having a constructive relationship."

Murkowski has said she plans to use her perch as chairwoman of the Appropriations Committee panel that funds Interior to force the administration's hand on natural resources policy.

I still bet she'll vote to increase Interior's budget, unless she's prevented from doing so by the Budget Control Act.

GOP battles with EPA over rules

House Republicans used a Wednesday hearing on the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) budget to attack various regulations being pursued by the agency. Most of the fights focused around the EPA’s proposals to cut carbon dioxide emissions from power plants, but other regulations also got attention. “EPA seems intent on locking in a long list of new regulations that will bind future administrations,” Rep. Fred Upton (R-Mich.), chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee, said at the hearing of two subcommittees of the panel...more

Will Rep. Upton and other Republicans vote to fund an agency issuing reg's that will "bind future administrations"?

“If this plan puts reliable base load energy from sources such as coal and nuclear in danger, communities may face higher costs and potentially suffer brownouts when most in need,” said Rep. John Shimkus (R-Ill.), chairman of the environment subpanel.

Will Rep. Shimkus and other Republicans vote to fund an agency issuing reg's that will cause "higher costs" and "brownouts"?

Rep. Ed Whitfield (R-Ky.), chairman of the energy and power subcommittee, questioned whether the EPA has the legal authority for its power plant rules, but McCarthy said she felt “very confident” that the rules align with the Clean Air Act.

Rep. Tim Murphy (R-Pa.) challenged the legality of the EPA’s proposed carbon rules for newly built coal power plants.

Will Reps. Whitfield and Murphy and other Republicans vote to fund an agency acting beyond its legal authority?

How a Solar Farm Set Hundreds of Birds Ablaze

It's no secret that solar power is hot right now, with innovators and big name companies alike putting a great deal of time, money, and effort into improving these amazing sources of renewable energy. Still, the last thing you'd likely expect is for a new experimental array to literally light nearly 130 birds in mid-flight on fire. And yet, that's exactly what happened near Tonopah, Nevada last month during tests of the 110-megawatt Crescent Dunes Solar Energy Project. According to Rudy Evenson, Deputy Chief of Communications for Nevada Bureau of Land Management (NBLM) in Reno, as reported by Re Wire, a third of the newly constructed plant was put into action on the morning of Jan. 14, redirecting concentrated solar energy to a point 1,200 feet above the ground. Unfortunately, about two hours into the test, engineers and biologists on site started noticing "streamers" - trails of smoke and steam caused by birds flying directly into the field of solar radiation. What moisture was on them instantly vaporized, and some instantly burst into flames - at least, until they began to frantically flap away. An estimated 130 birds were injured or killed during the test...more

Nevada land transfer opponents prepare for legislative hearing

A conservation group sent out a rally cry Tuesday for those opposed to a sweeping federal-to-state public land transfer. In an email, the Nevada Conservation League asked recipients to take action against Senate Joint Resolution 1 by encouraging lawmakers to vote down the measure, and voicing their disapproval at a meeting next week. “This is a crucial moment, when grassroots action can make an enormous difference,” the message states. The resolution asks congress to transfer an initial 7.2 million acres of federal land to the State of Nevada. The remaining public land – excluding military sites, tribal land, wilderness and Great Basin National Park – would be transferred on request. Those backing the bill, however, said the state would actually supplement its budget by tens of millions if it had control over the land. A study completed at the behest of the Nevada Public Land Management Task Force, chaired by Elko County Commissioner Demar Dahl, estimated the state stood to gain about $26 million in the first year of the proposed transfer. Dahl said the intent is for all existing rights to transfer with the land. He and other proponents believe a land transfer would increase access to public lands, and that public land concerns will be better resolved in Carson City than Washington D.C. Sen. Pete Goicoechea, R-Eureka, said the 7.2 million acres targeted for the initial transfer are comprised of areas the Bureau of Land Management identified for disposal, as well as “checkerboard land” made up of alternating public and private squares that line the railroad corridor...more

Critics protest proposal to control federal lands in Colorado

Groups representing hunters, outdoor enthusiasts and wildlife advocates rallied side by side in Denver on Wednesday in protest of a proposal by Colorado lawmakers that seeks to take control of federal public lands in the state. Organizers of the demonstration outside the Capitol building, which drew about 100 people including some wearing camouflage hunting outfits below bright orange headwear, said the state has no right to seek so-called cooperative management of national lands. "This kind of action is not supported by the overwhelming majority of Coloradans who consistently state that they believe these lands belong to all Americans and should be managed for the benefit of all," said Kate Zimmerman, director of public lands policy for the National Wildlife Federation. The Republican-sponsored bill before lawmakers seeks to reserve for the state of Colorado "the right to exercise, concurrently with the United States government, all of the same authority possessed by the United States government with respect to a particular area." The bill argues that the U.S. Forest Service and U.S. Bureau of Land Management have restricted efforts by the state of Colorado and its counties to respond to wildfires that start on land owned and operated by the U.S. government. Supporters say a "concurrent" approach between federal, state and local governments also is needed to investigate and prosecute crimes such as arson and illegal drug production...more

Top official delivers bleak forecast for Lake Mead

Nevada faces “significant possibilities” of water shortages if drought on the Colorado River persists into the next two years, according to an ominous forecast delivered Wednesday by a top government official. Michael Connor, deputy secretary of the Interior Department, said there is a 20 percent chance of shortages in Nevada and Arizona in 2016 if levels of Lake Mead and Lake Powell continue to drop, “and it goes up to almost 50 percent after that.” Connor briefed members of the House Interior subcommittee who met to review the department’s budget request for the coming year. Connor, the department’s No. 2 leader and its ranking expert on water, appeared alongside Interior Secretary Sally Jewell. The dire assessment comes as little surprise in Nevada, where residents have watched with dismay as a shrinking Lake Mead has left boat ramps high and dry and uncovered the remains of communities that once sat far below the surface. In July, Lake Mead sank to a record low not seen since the reservoir was first being filled in the late 1930s. Nevada, Arizona and California have entered into a series of cooperative efforts to bank water and save the lake, which provides 90 percent of the water for Las Vegas. The Southern Nevada Water Authority is overseeing the drilling of a new deep-water intake pipe — like a straw — to allow pumping to continue even as lake levels continue to recede...more

Lawsuit: flood control levees on Rio Grande threaten species

The environment group WildEarth Guardians filed a lawsuit Tuesday in federal court challenging a federal engineering project that its says threatens the health of the Rio Grande ecosystem from just north of Socorro to Elephant Butte. The project — already underway — also will alter hundreds of acres of key habitat of the Rio Grande silvery minnow, Southwestern willow flycatcher and yellow-billed cuckoo in violation of the Endangered Species Act, the group said in its court action. The lawsuit targets the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ project to build 43 miles of engineered levees along the river — from the San Acacia Diversion Dam south to Elephant Butte Reservoir. The Corps secured funding and started construction on the first two phases of the project earlier this year, which will provide levees along about six miles of the river to protect the town of Socorro...more

2-Year Trek From Turf to Table Delays Cheaper U.S. Beef

There’s little relief ahead for record U.S. steak and burger prices. While cattle ranchers like Brenda Richards are expanding herds for the first time in almost a decade, it can take two years to get more meat on the plate. After shrinking supply sent beef costs surging last year, the government still expects output to drop to a 22-year low in 2015. While ranchers are starting to breed more cows, calf gestation is nine months, with as much as 20 more before they are big enough to slaughter. Richards says she may increase her family’s 600-cow breeding herd to as many as 650. “It’s a little bit of an expansion,” said Richards, who has been farming in Reynolds Creek, Idaho, with her husband for three decades. “We’ve held steady for quite some time.” With supplies remaining tight, restaurant operator Ruth’s Hospitality Group Inc. and Bloomin’ Brands Inc., owner of the Outback Steakhouse chain, are forecasting gains in 2015 beef costs. Retail prices will jump 5 percent to 6 percent this year, more than any other food group and double the rate for all foods, the U.S. Department of Agriculture said. The cattle herd on Jan. 1 in the U.S., the world’s largest beef producer, was 1.4 percent bigger than a year earlier at 89.8 million head, the first increase for that date in eight years, USDA data show. The herd began last year as the smallest since 1952, after droughts from Texas through the Midwest dried pastures and pushed the price of feed corn to records in 2012...more

Global beef production needs to rise by 43% to feed growing population

Get ready, People worldwide want what you produce and more and more, they have the means and methods to buy it. And that, according to Elanco, is very good news. Growth of the world population and new entrants to the middle class will cause demand for meat, milk and eggs to increase worldwide. By 2050, average per capita beef consumption will increase slightly from 182 grams (6.4 ounces) per week to 194 grams (6.8 ounces). To meet this increased demand, global beef production will need to increase by 43%. This will be possible through the use of farming innovations and best practices that will allow farmers and ranchers around the world to produce more beef with fewer resources—meeting global demand, while freezing the industry’s environmental footprint. If innovation is frozen at 2010 levels, farmers and ranchers will need to raise 710 million additional cattle and water buffalo to meet 2050 demand. To raise more cattle and water buffalo without improved farming best practices, especially in developing countries, farmers and ranchers would need to increase their use of grazed forage* and water by 43%. With continued improvement for farming practices, such as better year-round nutrition and improved breeding and genetic selection, fewer than 1.7 billion cattle and water buffalo will be needed to provide adequate global beef supplies. This is nearly the same size as today’s global herd of cattle and water buffalo, which is approximately 1.68 billion. More importantly, the beef industry can freeze its environmental footprint to 2010 levels...more

American Hat Company: The Official Cowboy Hat of The National High School Rodeo Association

American Hat Company is proud to announce it is the official cowboy hat of The National High School Rodeo Association, (NHSRA) and the National High School Rodeo Association Junior Division (NHSRA JD). The NHSRA is the largest rodeo association in the world, sanctioning more than 1,800 rodeos including 48 state and provincial rodeo finals. American Hat Company becoming the official hat of the NHSRA and the NJHSRA signals a significant brand shift among the young people in the sport of rodeo. "The opportunity to partner with NHSRA and the NJHSRA is a dream come true for American Hat Company," says Keith Mundee, American Hat Company President.  "The high school kids unofficially adopted our brand five years ago and we have been very grateful.  Now it is our chance to give back to the association and provide some additional scholarship funds.  We believe high school rodeo is the future of the sport of rodeo." American Hat Company is known for great quality and setting the trends in the western hat market with unique color combinations and design patterns in their straw hats and a special lacquer finish that will allow you to wear your hat in the rain. American Hat Company makes the very finest felt hats available. Its signature hat is a 1000X Belly Beaver and Mink. Founded in 1915 in Houston, Texas, the brand has grown to a world known cowboy hat preferred by rodeo champions, working cowboys, ranchers and Texas lawmen.  American Hat Company is an innovator in the western industry and has been credited with developing the "open crown" concept.  The company is celebrating 100 years of producing the very best quality felt and straw hats this year.  American Hat Company also partners with Tuf Cooper to make a signature series of Tuf Cooper straws and felts...more

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

The sage grouse might not be listed as an endangered species after all

Western governors expressed some optimism on Sunday that the federal Fish and Wildlife Service might decide against including a rare bird on the Endangered Species List after years of work aimed at protecting millions of acres of habitat. In a meeting Sunday with governors representing Western states, Interior Secretary Sally Jewell was “guardedly optimistic,” according to Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper (D), that plans developed and implemented by several states will keep the sage grouse off the ESA. “She expressed to me optimism that they were going to be able to avoid listing” the sage grouse, Hickenlooper said in an interview at the annual meeting of the National Governors Association. “There’s still a lot of work to be done, both with her staff and the states,” Hickenlooper added. “We’re making clear progress.” The grouse’s natural range extends over 165 million acres covering nine states west of the Rocky Mountains, as well as North and South Dakota. Some estimates place the total economic impact of a decision to list the grouse — and thus shut off its habitat from future development — in the billions of dollars. One widely-cited study suggested that such a decision could cost as much as 31,000 jobs. To prevent a listing, Western states have established individual plans aimed at preserving habitat, which they hope will convince the federal government not to list the grouse under the Endangered Species Act. Though governors say they have worked well with the Department of the Interior and other federal agencies, some express skepticism that the grouse is really at the heart of environmentalists’ concerns. “They want to use that as a tool to stop energy development — coal extraction or natural gas or oil drilling. I think that’s just the political reality out there in the marketplace,” Utah Gov. Gary Herbert (R) said in an interview broadcast this weekend on C-SPAN. “I’m a little concerned about a species that’s prolific in nine states that people are somehow saying is endangered. That’s a little bit odd.”...more

Jewell, Murkowski face off in high-stakes budget hearing

Republican senators delivered a full-throated attack this morning against the Obama administration's energy and natural resources policies, accusing the Interior Department of ignoring Alaskans, Gulf Coast residents and the goal of the U.S. attaining energy independence. The hearing before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee marked the first of a handful of trips Interior Secretary Sally Jewell will make to Capitol Hill in the coming months to defend the agency's $13.2 billion budget before a hostile, GOP-controlled Congress. This morning was no exception, as Jewell faced Republican fire on a laundry list of Obama policy initiatives, including Bureau of Land Management efforts to regulate hydraulic fracturing and the venting and flaring of natural gas; the Fish and Wildlife Service's pending decision on whether the greater sage grouse deserves protections under the Endangered Species Act; and the National Park Service's work to award contracts to run park lodges, campgrounds and other visitor services. Murkowski's attack was among the most pointed -- and poignant given her outsize influence over Interior as chairwoman of the panel that writes the agency's annual budget. "I don't want to make this personal, but the decisions from Interior have lacked balance," Murkowski said in her opening statement. "You're depriving us of jobs, revenue, security and prosperity." Western lawmakers should be on alert for land restrictions in their own states, Murkowski said. "I think what we're seeing in Alaska is a warning for those in the West," Murkowski said. Western lawmakers should be on alert for land restrictions in their own states, Murkowski said...more

Utah moves forward on federal lands bid

The Commission for the Stewardship of Public Lands moved the needle forward on the state's commitment to wrest control of certain federal property within its borders, voting to approve a bid for outside legal analysis on the effort. In the Monday vote, commission members agreed to allow the request for proposals to be issued by the Office of Legislative Research and General Counsel for legal services and relations for a two-year period. Under the terms of the proposal, the selected law firm will research legal theories the state could use to obtain ownership and control of public lands, identify potential witnesses in support of that premise, have demonstrated experience or know of a firm that has brought an original action before the U.S. Supreme Court. The state has the option to cancel the contract with certain notice, and commission leadership agreed that quarterly reports will be given updating the progress of the selected law firm preparing the draft legal brief. A vendor is slated to be selected by June after a review of the bids. In other public lands action Monday, a measure sponsored by Sen. Aaron Osmond, R-South Jordan, directs the Commission for the Stewardship of Public Lands to order a study that would conduct an inventory of certain federal lands and quantify the amount of funding that could be generated for public education from the property. That revenue would be based on if the property transferred to the management of the state and be forecast out for the next 10 years for each school district in the state...more

Study of federal lands proceeds through Wyoming House

A House committee cleared a bill Monday that would require the state to study management of federally owned lands. Several lawmakers who support Senate File 56 acknowledged they have received email from the public – in particular sportsmen groups – in opposition to the bill, but they think the public misunderstands the point of the bill. “It’s pretty controversial, Mr. Chairman, I will tell you that,” Sen. Eli Bebout, R-Riverton, said while presenting the bill to the House Minerals, Business and Economic Development Committee. “There’s a lot of misinformation out there.” A recent Colorado College poll suggested Wyomingites are split on whether federal lands should be managed by federal interests. Bebout said the study doesn’t presume the state would obtain ownership of the lands from the feds and/or sell them off to the privileged few who would cut off access for hunting and fishing. The study only looks into management, he said. The federal government takes years to permit oil, gas and mining operations, Bebout said. The permitting process is so long that market conditions change and projects are abandoned...more

Idaho county supports habitat proposal

Blaine County is supporting efforts to obtain $36.5 million in federal funding to protect open space along the High Divide—an area of wildlife habitat between the Frank Church-River of No Return Wilderness and Yellowstone National Park. Most of that area is public land, but, conservation organizations say, some is key private farm and ranch land in danger of development. The proposal seeks to protect about 20,500 acres of private land, including 2,000 acres in southern Blaine County, during fiscal year 2016. The money would come from the Land and Water Conservation Fund, established by Congress in 1965 to acquire land and conservation easements using fees paid for offshore oil and gas drilling. The fund collects $900 million annually, though much is diverted to unrelated federal spending. The High Divide proposal is part of a larger one, called the Heart of the Rockies Initiative, that seeks to protect connecting land from southern Alberta and British Columbia to northwestern Wyoming.  The application for funding has been filed by the High Divide Conservation Collaborative, a cooperative effort among federal and state agencies, ranchers and about 30 conservation organizations...more

BLM holds off on plan to return 186 mustangs to range in NV

The U.S. Bureau of Land Management is holding off on plans to return 186 wild horses to the range in central Nevada pending the review of an appeal filed by a rancher and rural county opposed to the move. The agency originally had planned to return 104 mares treated with a fertility control vaccine and 82 studs to the sprawling Fish Creek Herd Management Area (HMA) near Eureka on Friday. They were among 424 horses removed from the HMA during a roundup that ended earlier this week. The bureau routinely thins what it calls overpopulated herds on public land across the West, sending horses that aren't adopted to pastures in the Midwest for the rest of their lives. Rancher Kevin Borba and Eureka County commissioners, who filed the appeal with the Interior Board of Land Appeals on Friday, oppose the return of any of the 424 horses to the range. Borba said the BLM has drastically reduced his livestock allotments in the HMA while allowing well over twice as many wild horses in it as it can support...more

Ranchers Sue National Guard, Federal and State Governments For $6.8 Million Over Damages From Fires

Colorado Army National Guard troops training at Camp Guernsey in 2012 used ammunition and explosives that caused the 22-square-mile Sawmill Canyon Fire that also scorched thousands of acres of a nearby ranch. Kevin and Susan Rothschild, who have owned the 5,000-acre Bulls Bend Ranch, LLLP, for 20 years, are demanding nearly $6.8 million in damages from the National Guard and other defendants, according to a lawsuit filed in federal court on Monday. “The Defendants were further negligent, irresponsible, reckless, and acted without regard to plaintiff’s property by not having any fire extinguishing equipment or other controls in place to control and minimize the risk of fire from their activities,” according to the complaint filed by the Cheyenne law firm the Kuker Group, which represents the Rothschilds. The National Guard knew better, according to the complaint. On June 19, extreme drought conditions prompted the Platte County Commission to issue a ban on all activities that could cause fires. An exception was made for Camp Guernsey, but any costs of extinguishing out-of-control, man-made burns caused by this exception would be paid for by the Wyoming Military Department. National Guard actions have caused other substantial fires, according to the complaint...more

After the die-up came the skinning season

by Murphy Givens

A bad drought in 1871 and 1872 was followed by a cold winter. Where there was water, there was no grass; where there was grass, there was no water. Cattle were too weak to travel between the two and they died by the thousands. Cowboys called it a die-up.

Spring brought the skinning season.

Every man with a horse and knife went looking for dead cattle. Anyone could take the hide of a dead animal, no matter the brand, and the hide was ready money. When it was sold, the owner was due the value of the skin less the amount owed the skinner for his work. Ranchers hired their own skinners or used ranch hands for the grisly task.

Hide thieves also worked the ranges. Bandits from below the border had been stealing cattle for years, especially after the end of the Civil War. Then the value of beef dropped so low the hide was worth more than the cow. Instead of rounding up herds and driving them across the border, hide thieves killed cattle and skinned them where they fell.

They didn't wait for them to die, but helped them along. Some hide thieves used a long knife fixed to a pole to cut the tendons to immobilize the cattle. They were shot or stabbed to death. Hamstrung cattle sometimes were skinned while still alive, poor creatures.

The hide thieves hauled the hides to disreputable buyers or took them back to Mexico for sale. Two notorious hide thieves were Pat Quinn and Alberto Garza, known as Segundo Garza or Caballo Blanco.

The ranchers believed — and we suppose they would have known — that Gen. Juan Cortina, the Mexican folk hero and their longtime border antagonist, was more than a little implicated in the stealing of hides and the rustling of cattle. Garza was his second in command, which gave him the nickname of Segundo.
The hide thieves rode in heavily armed gangs — from 10 to 100 men — and could take on any force they ran up against; if truly threatened they could escape to Mexico.

The conflict between ranchers and hide-peelers was called the Skinning War. In the 1870s, J. Frank Dobie wrote in "The Longhorns," the waste of longhorns for hides in South Texas was equaled only by the slaughter of buffalo on the Great Plains.

The Nueces Valley in 1872 reported, "We learn of the wholesale slaughtering of cattle by Alberto Garza and party. At one place there were 275 carcasses, at another 300, and at another 66. These robbers seem to be well-supplied with arms and ammunition, rodeo the cattle and shoot them down in their tracks until a sufficient number is killed for the day."

The newspaper urged vigilantes to get busy. "Let the mesquite branches show the fruits of their labor."

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Trespassing to collect data bill passes Wyoming House

Members of the Wyoming House of Representatives gave final approval Monday to a bill making trespassing to collect data a crime. Senate File 12 aims to curb collection of resource data for use against landowners in environmental litigation. The legislation is a response to a recent civil suit against members of the Western Watersheds Project who allegedly trespassed to collect water quality data. Proponents of the bill say it would shift the burden of proof to alleged trespassers and make the crime easier to prosecute. Under the bill, state agencies would not be allowed to consider data acquired by trespassing. House members warned against softening the bill to allow alleged trespassers who "reasonably believe" they have permission to access a certain portion of land without consequence. "This bill is about trespassing to collect data," Rep. Tyler Lindholm, R-Sundance said. "If somebody’s trespassing on your property in order to violate this offense, they have to be collecting something. That would leave a hole for those people to try to climb out of." A similar attempt failed in the Senate. Sen. Chris Rothfuss, D-Laramie, proposed an unsuccessful amendment to require prosecution only if a trespasser knowingly violated private property rights for the purpose of collecting resource data...more

Obama vetoes Keystone XL

President Obama used his veto power for the third time of his presidency to nix legislation authorizing construction of the Keystone XL pipeline, sending the bill back to Congress for an override attempt. The rejection Tuesday was expected. The federal government has been reviewing the Canada-to-Texas project for more than six years, and the White House has consistently said it wouldn't accept legislation circumventing that process. The veto doesn't scrap Keystone XL outright, as it's still undergoing federal review for a cross-border permit needed to finish the northern leg. And while there has been years of delay on the pipeline, Obama hasn't weighed in on whether he supports or opposes it. But that time may be coming soon. The State Department is evaluating comments from other federal agencies used to determine whether the 1,700-mile pipeline is in the national interest. The recommendation is the last step in the federal review process before kicking the decision to the White House, though there's no timeline for that final ruling...more

Obama flexes muscles on resources with eye on legacy

Phil Taylor, E&E reporter

President Obama has quickly built a hefty portfolio on natural resource issues.

In the last two years, Obama has designated or expanded a dozen national monuments, preserved more than 1.1 million acres in the West and moved to permanently ban drilling in the oil-rich Arctic National Wildlife Refuge...

If history is any indication, Obama's pace of executive actions on lands and waters could accelerate.
Consider that President Clinton in his last year in office designated or expanded 18 of his 19 national monuments, permanently setting aside more than 3.3 million acres, according to National Park Service data.

Obama last week designated three new monuments covering 22,000 acres in Illinois, Colorado and Hawaii, calling parks, monuments and waters the "birthright of all Americans."
Other major land and energy decisions are fast approaching:
  • The administration will decide in coming months whether to permit Royal Dutch Shell PLC to drill in the relatively pristine Chukchi Sea off Alaska's North Slope, where there are an estimated 15 billion barrels of oil.
  • The Bureau of Land Management will write or finalize major rules governing hydraulic fracturing, methane venting and flaring, and royalties.
  • And BLM will finalize unprecedented new protections for sage grouse across tens of millions of acres of Western rangelands, an effort some conservationists are comparing to Clinton's sweeping 2001 roadless rule.
 "What Obama is doing is setting a platform for action over the next two years," said Bill Meadows, former president of the Wilderness Society. "There's so much more that can be done, and I think he's enjoying it."

Green groups are also seeking protections of 1.7 million acres surrounding the Grand Canyon, more than 1 million acres in the Southern California desert and 350,000 acres of Nevada's Gold Butte, a vast desert of multihued rocks, petroglyphs and slot canyons.

Feds: America Should Adopt ‘Plant-Based’ Diet

The federal committee responsible for nutrition guidelines is calling for the adoption of “plant-based” diets, taxes on dessert, trained obesity “interventionists” at worksites, and electronic monitoring of how long Americans sit in front of the television. The Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee (DGAC) released its far-reaching 571-page report of recommendations to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Thursday, which detailed its plans to “transform the food system.”  In response, DGAC called for diet and weight management interventions by “trained interventionists” in healthcare settings, community locations, and worksites. “Government at local, state, and national levels, the health care system, schools, worksites, community organizations, businesses, and the food industry all have critical roles in developing creative and effective solutions,” they said (bigger gov't).  “Align nutritional and agricultural policies with Dietary Guidelines recommendations and make broad policy changes to transform the food system so as to promote population health, including the use of economic and taxing policies to encourage the production and consumption of healthy foods and to reduce unhealthy foods,” its report read. “For example, earmark tax revenues from sugar-sweetened beverages, snack foods and desserts high in calories, added sugars, or sodium, and other less healthy foods for nutrition education initiatives and obesity prevention programs.”  Align nutritional and agricultural policies with Dietary Guidelines recommendations and make broad policy changes to transform the food system so as to promote population health, including the use of economic and taxing policies to encourage the production and consumption of healthy foods and to reduce unhealthy foods,” its report read.  “For example, earmark tax revenues from sugar-sweetened beverages, snack foods and desserts high in calories, added sugars, or sodium, and other less healthy foods for nutrition education initiatives and obesity prevention programs.” (higher taxes and more regulations) As expected, the committee recommended that Americans move toward “plant-based” diets, after months of discussions in meetings regarding environmentalism and food policy. DGAC said its recommendations to eat less meat are intended to “maximize environmental sustainability” out of concerns for climate change. The major findings regarding sustainable diets were that a diet higher in plant-based foods, such as vegetables, fruits, whole grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds, and lower in calories and animal-based foods is more health promoting and is associated with less environmental impact than is the current U.S. diet,” DGAC said. GAC recommended Mediterranean-style and vegetarian diets as the best options. Vegan, lacto-ovo vegetarian, pesco-vegetarian, and Mediterranean diets are the most environmentally friendly, with the least greenhouse gas emissions, it said. “All of these dietary patterns are aligned with lower environmental impacts and provide options that can be adopted by the U.S. population,” the report said. “Current evidence shows that the average U.S. diet has a larger environmental impact in terms of increased greenhouse gas emissions, land use, water use, and energy use, compared to the above dietary patterns. This is because the current U.S. population intake of animal-based foods is higher and plant-based foods are lower, than proposed in these three dietary patterns.” (environmentalism run amok)...more

Larger governments at all levels, higher taxes, more regulations and more control is all that is needed to transform the system and create environmental nirvana across the earth.  These tools have worked so well in Russia, East Germany, China and other nations that its time we implement them here. 

Meat producers really shouldn't worry though, after all, the report also says, “no food groups need to be eliminated completely to improve sustainability outcomes over the current status.”  So all of you don't have to go, a few can remain.  

And no one should be suspicious that the higher taxes and larger programs will all benefit the same folks who wrote these recommendations.

Just sit back, relax, and let the Sierra Club and Michelle Obama select your menu.

Vanishing water, fewer jobs, but still hope in the Central Valley

In this region that calls itself “The Cantaloupe Center of the World,” vast fields that once annually yielded millions of melons lie fallow. And, for some farmers, planting tomatoes and other traditional row crops may now constitute acts of courage. America’s largest agriculture economy is changing because of a lack of water. Amid a prolonged drought and an anticipated third straight year of cutbacks in federal water supplies, the one assured constant is stress. Farmers who can afford them are sinking wells, extracting groundwater that works for groves of almonds and pistachios. But the groundwater is generally too salty for crops of vegetables and grains that have made the Central Valley the nation’s food basket. And questions persist over how long the groundwater supplies will last – and whether growers will get enough of the reservoir water they crave. In California’s $40 billion agricultural sector, farmers face hard choices on what to plant and how much. They weigh crop losses and the costs of acquiring new ground or surface water supplies against cutting labor or selling off their farms. Farm fields are shrinking, and working hours for tens of thousands of laborers have been slashed. “We’re in a severe hole right now,” said Ryan Jacobsen, CEO of the Fresno County Farm Bureau. “And it’s very unlikely we’ll get out of it.”...more

Snail’s pace approach endangers America’s energy resurgence

There’s something for everyone to criticize in the Obama administration’s latest offshore energy plan. The leave-it-in-the-ground crowd fumes over the Interior Department’s move to consider oil and natural gas exploration in the Atlantic. Others, like me, are disappointed that the narrowly crafted Atlantic policy represents the bare minimum while leaving promising areas in the Pacific and eastern Gulf of Mexico off limits. But keeping all sides equally frustrated is not what we mean by “all-of-the-above” energy — a strategy the White House claims to support. The United States needs multiple sources of energy to meet our needs and to remain a world energy leader, and that includes expanding offshore oil and natural gas. A full 87 percent of federally-controlled offshore acreage is entirely off limits to production, and the administration’s proposed five-year leasing plan does almost nothing to change that. In the plan, the Interior Department proposes holding only one Atlantic lease sale and not until 2021. Even that could be “narrowed or taken out entirely in the future,” according to Interior Secretary Sally Jewell. Failing to open more areas now could set us back decades. Offshore oil and natural gas development is a long-term investment. A decade or more can elapse between a lease sale and the first barrel of commercial production...more

Activist Teaches Feminist Animal Rights Course At George Mason University

A self-described activist is teaching an eye-opening “Animal Rights as Ecofeminism” course at George Mason, the largest public university in Virginia. Professor Paul C. Gorski, who believes meat producers perpetuate racism and that a powerful dairy lobby is responsible for the idea that milk promotes health, will be teaching a course about “mass food production, mass clothing production, pharmaceutical and medical testing.” According to the course syllabus, students are required to write about how animal rights relates to “sexism, racism, heterosexism, imperialism, and poverty.” He asks students to consider questions such as:
(1) How is pig farming abusive to low-wage workers and the environment? Who feels the greatest impact of the environmental and worker exploitation (across race, class, etc.?)
(2) Who are the beneficiaries of this exploitation and abuse? How do they justify it? How do they create the conditions that allow it to happen?
(3) Beyond abuses during production, what are other ways in which the products of industrialized pig farming are harmful? What impact does it have on community health? Whose health is at highest risk and why?
In the course, students are commanded not try to justify the ways they “exploit” animals.
“Animal Rights as Ecofeminism” students must also create their own animal rights campaign which includes an “action” portion — for example, Gorski suggests staging a protest.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Beef producers say Obama is trying to kill their industry

Lawmakers from cattle producing states are seeing red following a 571-page federal report that that encourages Americans to go green. A panel of nutrition experts recruited by the Obama administration to craft the newest dietary guidelines suggested last week that the government should consider the environment when deciding what people should eat. The report, which was presented to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, bills itself as a way to “transform the food system” and that’s got a lot of people in the heartland and those elected to represent them in Washington fuming. The report, which is open for public comment for 45 days, will be used by the government not only to mold dietary guidelines but also used as the basis for government food assistance programs as well as school lunch programs, worth an estimated $16 billion annually. The North American Meat Institute slammed the report, calling it “flawed” and “nonsensical.” Members of the meat industry as well as those from soda makers, say the panel has gone “beyond its scope.” Dr. Richard Thorpe, a Texas physician and rancher, told that he is disappointed in the panel’s recommendations and said “it’s absurd the committee would suggest the reduction of meat, or red meat, in the American diet.” Thorpe says nutritional science is “constantly evolving” and that reports like the one released last week “can absolutely kill an industry” and called the report an “insult.” “Legumes should be a mainstay of an American diet?” Thorpe said, adding that it would take a wheelbarrow full of spinach to meet the same amount of iron in a serving of beef. He added that iron found in beef is not equal to iron in spinach, and that beef’s iron is more absorbable...more
Working on other projects...will be back soon.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Cowgirl Sass and Savvy

Growing up in the big woods

by Julie Carter

It wasn’t in the same century, but it wasn’t that many years later that I wore braids, lived in some Colorado “big woods” and had a life not so very different than what Laura Ingalls Wilder described in her “Little House in the Big Woods” book series.

There was Ma and Pa and three younger brothers and as a young family living on small ranch wages, we also pioneered our way through life with growing or catching our food, storing it for winter and planning spring gardens and fall harvests to supplement. 

We bathed in a wash tub placed next to the wood stove and slept in bedrooms cold enough to freeze the water in the glass on the night stand. Pancakes were on the table every morning dripping in homemade syrup my mother boiled up with water, sugar and maple flavoring or the occasional chokecherry syrup. Eggs being served depended on the mood of the laying hens and the chore child who gathered them.

The cows were milked early and the buckets of foamy milk handed over to “Ma” for care. It was refrigerated in jars and the cream rose to the top in thick layers to be skimmed off and used for eating, baking or soured for the churning of butter. My mother’s recipe box is full of recipes calling for butter and cream – the real stuff.

 Later a “cream separator” became part of the process and a cranking job for a kid. I can still hear both my parents admonishing one of us to “slow down” or we’d turn the cream into butter before it ever left the machine. I might add that the time it saved in milk processing was used up in washing the many pieces after each use and putting it back together ready for tomorrow’s milk.

Our days were peppered with visits from assorted family, the old guy who cut timber and skidded logs with a team of horses and seasonal big game hunters. My grandparents lived down the road a couple miles, close enough to walk (or run away from home with that destination in mind), or even one time, my attempt to ride my tricycle, the getaway vehicle of choice for a 4-year-old.

There was always work to do for both my parents. Work that involved survival and maintaining some level of comfort in our living. Oblivious to what that took, we children played in the meadows, in the nearby creek, on the hillsides covered in pines or in winter, the snowbanks that isolated our world to a white wonderland. We more often than not wore socks for mittens and made some feeble attempt to keep track of our stocking hats. Jeans were always wet as there were no snow pants and snow boots as we know today.

At night, we were safe and warm in the house and instead of a fiddle like Charles Ingalls played, my dad played the guitar along with his singing and even some yodeling. “The Wildwood Flower” will be forever embedded in my memory.

Bedtime came with the dark where we learned to read books by being read to and we said a good night prayer asking the Lord “our soul to keep.” We asked God to bless everyone we knew and named them one by one in a nightly repetition.

This was 80 years after Laura Ingalls Wilder’s story took place and yet the differences were minimal give or take an electric lightbulb and a gasoline driven vehicle. 

I’m still a couple decades out from the 80-year mark of my story’s beginning, but already the changes are mind boggling. The world is leaping ahead faster and faster. For instance, I write this on a computer that, through a single wire, is hooked to the entire world for an instantaneous connection. These words will be available to anyone with the same connection or even to that cowboy riding across the back-40 when he checks the cows and his smart phone.

However, sometimes a ride up the road peddling a little tricycle seems a better way. Maybe because it is just so simple.

Julie can be reached for comment at

New Wilderness

Rewriting Law
New Wilderness
In the Eye of the Beholder
By Stephen L. Wilmeth

            The truth is revealed.
            At a news conference last week in Brussels, the executive secretary of the United Nation’s Framework Convention on Climate Change, Christiana Figueres, admitted what too many of us have long known. Figueres boldly confirmed that the goal of environmental activists is not to save the world from ecological calamity, but, rather, to destroy capitalism.
            Within hours, several articles appeared that predicted that the sitting American president was demonstrating in a manner that would project him in a favorable light to key votes among United Nations membership countries. The matter was his potential quest for that organization’s Secretary Generalship.
            Could it be that, within the endless acts of willful denigration of our Constitution, this fellow is foisting upon our country the very UN agenda that intends to destroy our underpinnings? We know of the rewilding genesis that came from the Clinton administration draft that served as the basis for the UN’s Environment Programme. It also became their Global Biodiversity Assessment, but can we discern footprints much closer to home?
            The answer to that question is probably yes, and the matter starts with the premise that … environmental beauty, or its wilderness equivalent, lies in the eye of the beholder.
            From Molly Bawn
            The concept has probably been around longer, but a first suggestion of qualifying beauty can be found in 3rd Century BC Greek writings. Since then, something perceived to be unique has been described time and again. Different phrasing and catchwords have been used, but the undertow reaches for something that captures a measure of merit for subjective beauty.
            Out of the dark ages, Lyly and Shakespeare took shots at trying to best describe the phenomenon.
John Lyly wrote, “As neere Fancie to Beautie, as the pricke to the Rose as the stalke to the rynde, as the earth to the roote”.
Shakespeare attempted to be more adept, but we are reminded why studying him was such drudgery. In his 1588 Love’s Labours Lost he concocted, “Good Lord Boyet, my beauty though but mean, needs not the painted flourish of your praise. Beauty is brought by judgment of the eye, not utter’d by base sale of chapman’s tongue”.
Ben Franklin came closer in his Poor Richard’s Almanac when he wrote, “Beauty, like supreme dominion, is but supported by opinion.”
David Hume’s 1742 essay, Moral and Political, suggested, “Beauty in things exists merely in the mind that contemplates them”.
Finally, the Irish novelist, Margaret Wolfe Hungerford, nailed the concept. In her 1878 Molly Bawn she wrote, “Beauty is in the eye of the Beholder”.
Margaret, who first wrote under the pseudonym of “The Duchess”, was born in County Cork in 1855. As a child, she enjoyed making up stories. Similar to modern day wilderness crusaders, she grew into an adult with the propensity to promote light romantic fiction with zest and passion.
In fact, it was exactly the spirit of her phrasing that a modern day wilderness crusader used when I asked him the question of what modern characteristics of American wilderness should actually be. He told me, “Wilderness is what the beholder deems appropriate”.
That answer came after he learned it was important to shut ranch gates by being on the same side of the fence as the pickup. His demonstration of logic could well be the continuing story of a wilderness advocate’s grasp of the real world.
Wilderness regardless of the cost
The federal land agencies are on a quest.
They are hunting for new wilderness on orders from the administration and its environmental handlers. The authority is not organic at all. The orders are coming from prerogative powers usurped through the creation of adulterated policy.
The Wilderness Act of 1964 defined the designation’s characteristics. Such land reflecting the concept of American wilderness were those that 1) generally appear to have been affected primarily by the forces of nature, 2) have outstanding opportunities for solitude or a primitive and unconfined type of recreation, 3) have at least 5,000 acres of (contiguous) land, and 4) may contain certain fundamental values.
Those finite premises were also included in the directive to inventory other federal lands as outlined in subsequent law, Public Law 94-579, otherwise known as the Federal Lands Policy and Management Act of 1976 (FLMPA). Section 201 of that Act directed the Secretary to inventory lands then and on a continuing basis to identify new and emerging resources and other values. The reference to wilderness does not appear in the Section. It is silent.
Section 202 sets forth further inventory procedures with an initial planning guideline of the use and observation of multiple use and sustained yield set forth in the Act and other applicable laws. There is abundant language directing the agency (BLM) to assure the consideration of local land use plans that are germane to the matter of federal land planning. Conflict resolution is required. The reference to wilderness does not appear in this Section. It is silent.
Wording references of wilderness and or wilderness inventory don’t appear until Section 603. In that section, the Secretary is given strict orders to identify only those roadless lands of 5000 and more acres that have wilderness characteristics as set forth in the Wilderness Act.
The results are chaotic. Congress failed to act on the inventory and the compounding stewardship vacuum over the ensuing years has been filled by powerful legions of elites who have superimposed their environmental agenda. Their imposition of modern characteristics of wilderness has taken on a whole new life with breadth not at all envisioned by the original promises made to the American public.
The neuveau criteria
 Casting the legal wilderness inventory aside, the agency criteria for selecting new lands with wilderness characteristics restates obligatory authority from the organic legislation, but the real leap of authority does not come from law. It comes from policy.
In the BLM’s case, it comes most specifically from manual numbers 6310 and 20. These instruction memorandi provide guidance on public involvement in the inventory process, the role that cooperating agencies play in the process, and the allowance to share information with the public. Those in the actual trenches of trying to exist share a broad agreement that, in practice, only certain affiliations have been privy to shared information, but the real point of extra legal manuals comes from the original premise of FLPMA. In exchange for the federal desire to manage public lands on the basis of retention rather than disposal, local governments were to be involved in all matters of land designation from initial stages. The intention to conceive and manage these matters from Washington or from the board rooms of environmental organizations was not the model sold to the American citizenry.
The most bizarre and overt reach for inventing more de facto wilderness comes from the new characteristics of wilderness created simply by altering policy. The first expansion of authority comes from manipulation of the 5,000 acre roadless standard. The 5,000 acre parameter remains, but the operational condition now reflects ‘contiguous’ BLM lands. The interpretation opens the path for gerrymandering around state and private lands, but, as long as there is a federal land continuum, the 5000 acre fulfillment can be engineered.
There is also an addendum whereby lands with less than 5,000 acres can be considered if they abut existing 5,000 acre parcels and each of which continue to have wilderness characteristics. Wilderness creep is the obvious and expected result.
The most frightening new authority comes from the nebulous concept of naturalness. Naturalness refers to whether or not the area looks natural to the average visitor.
The instructions for judging such naturalness come right out of the text of Molly Bawn. These natural conditions can be used to judge the work of humans, but, as long as those works remain largely unnoticeable, the wilderness tag can be attached. The list of human marks include such improvements as trails, trail signs, bridges, fire breaks, pit toilets, fishery enhancements, fire rings, historic properties, archeological resources, hitching posts, snow gauges, water monitoring devices, fences, spring developments, stock ponds, and barely linear disturbances. The latter relates to certain roads and ways.
A realization emerges.
With the latitude for the selection process widened not just by extralegal criteria as compared to the organic acts, but compounded with subjective authority of defining naturalness, wilderness is indeed defined in an ever widening swath … in the eye of the beholder.
In a recent meeting organized by ten organizations and local governing boards with BLM, the question was asked what can be done about the drift of authority in the matter of wilderness expansion.
The agency answer was brief … “you can always sue us.”
Isn’t that a terrible place to find ourselves?

Stephen L. Wilmeth is a rancher from southern New Mexico. “Folks affected by these matters can ill afford to defend themselves, and … representatives who are like minded have demonstrated zero capability of helping.”

I have no idea what Shakespeare thought about wilderness, contiguous or acreage, but I do know what the Interior Board of Land Appeals has ruled on wilderness study areas, contiguous and less than 5,000 acres.

In DON COOPS ET AL  the IBLA ruled

Where, in assessing the wilderness characteristics of a unit during the intensive inventory, the Bureau of Land Management determines only that the unit in conjunction with adjacent Forest Service land possesses a certain wilderness characteristic, the method of assessment is improper. The Bureau is required to assess whether the unit itself has the requisite characteristic.


While the Bureau of Land Management may inventory and identify areas of the public lands of less than 5,000 acres as having wilderness characteristics, it may not properly designate such areas as wilderness study areas under sec. 603(a) of the Federal Land Policy and Management Act of 1976, 43 U.S.C. § 1782(a) (1976), because that section only mandates review of roadless areas of 5,000 acres or more and roadless islands of the public lands.

Those decisions, however, dealt with Sec. 603 of FLPMA, whereas the issues today deal with the inventory and management sections of that Act and how they relate to "lands with wilderness characteristics."  And Wilmeth is right, policy is the issue.

Under the two decisions above plus one other, over a million acres were removed from WSA status.  My role in that removal leads me back to one of the important lessons I learned from Jim Watt, which I write about here


Wilderness, Watt, the White House and little ol' me

by Frank DuBois

The column by Steve Wilmeth on the expansion of the wilderness concept reminded me of a scary event and a valuable lesson I learned from Jim Watt.

In my first year as an Interior Department appointee during the Reagan administration, I discovered three Interior Board of Land Appeals decisions which affected the rest of my career as a public official.

FLPMA became the law in 1976 and BLM was undergoing the process of identifying and recommending lands for Wilderness as mandated by Sec. 603 of that Act.

I had been there less than a year when I came across three recent IBLA decisions that said BLM was violating the law in three different circumstances.  The BLM had placed in Wilderness Study Area status lands that were less than 5,000 acres, or lands that didn't contain the mandatory wilderness characteristics on their own, or lands where the mineral estate was in private hands and therefor the surface couldn't be managed as wilderness.

These IBLA decisions were based upon a few appeals, and BLM was just going to quietly drop those areas that had been appealed, leaving all the rest in WSA status.  I argued BLM had violated the law in all of those designations and they should all be dropped.  I won that policy debate and went around with my chest puffed out thinking what a smart fellow I was.

BLM packaged up a Federal Register notice dropping the majority of the areas which amounted to just under one million acres.

Then all hell broke loose.  The Washington Post and New York Times had headlines like "Interior Secretary Watt drops a million acres out of Wilderness" and it was the lead story on CBS evening news.

Watt was summoned to the White House to discuss the issue and immediately upon his return demanded to see Ass't Secretary Garrey Carruthers, BLM Director Bob Burford and myself in his office to meet with him and his assistant Steve Shipley.

Watt was not happy and demanded to know just exactly what we had done.  There was tension in the air when I started my explanation of the language in Sec. 603 of FLPMA.  Carruthers spoke up to assist me but pronounced the law as FLMPA ("flempa") instead of FLPMA ("flipma").  Unfortunately, I got tickled over Carruthers mispronouncing FLPMA and couldn’t help but giggle during the rest of my explanation of Section 603 and the IBLA decisions.

Watt then looked me right in the eye and said we had made the right policy decision and it was good for America.  He then said I had failed to follow through in implementing the policy in a smart way politically.  I told him there were more areas to be dropped and he said I better figure out a way to drop the additional areas without him being called to the White House.

The meeting was over and I went back to my office.  I sat there thinking “Well you’ve finally done it.  The Secretary gets called to the White House over a policy you pushed through and then all you can do is laugh about it in front of the Secretary.”  I figured I might as well start packing my bags.

The phone rang and it was Steve Shipley.  I thought this was it.  To my surprise he said, “You made the Secretary’s day.  He was laughing as he walked out the door.”


I got to work on dropping the rest of the areas.  I knew the media coverage would be better if it went from west to east instead of originating in the east.  From then on we had the BLM State Directors make the announcements, state by state and at different times.  As a result it didn’t make a blip on the national scene.

This was one of the valuable lessons I learned from Jim Watt.  Just making the right decision isn't enough.  The way that decision is implemented is just as important as the decision itself.