Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Federal, state officials race to save Northwest's dwindling grizzlies

Scott Streater, E&E reporter

Federal and state agencies in Washington state's rugged North Cascades are racing to save the iconic grizzly bear before the 600-pound behemoths disappear.

Grizzlies that once numbered in the thousands from north-central Washington into British Columbia have dwindled to no more than 30 or so animals spread across the North Cascades ecosystem, 13,600 square miles in the United States and Canada.

"Given what we know, there's few bears left," said Chris Servheen, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's grizzly bear recovery coordinator in Missoula, Mont. "It's a very, very small number."

The National Park Service and FWS are leading an effort that both agencies concede is long overdue to develop a formal plan to restore grizzlies in 9,800 square miles on the U.S. side of the North Cascades ecosystem. The agencies last month formally launched an environmental impact statement (EIS) to study a host of alternatives to restore grizzly populations across one of the largest contiguous swaths of undeveloped land in the Lower 48 states.

...But while no one disagrees that grizzlies in the North Cascades are at a perilous stage, how best to increase bear populations in the region while ensuring public safety and protecting the state's valuable livestock and ranching industries has already sparked a lot of public debate, as well as concerns from some local government leaders.

..."From our perspective, the only appropriate alternative is for the augmentation or translocation of bears into the [North Cascades] habitat," said Elizabeth Ruther, the Seattle-based Northwest representative for Defenders of Wildlife who has led the group's efforts to promote grizzly bear recovery in the Cascade Mountains.

But the mere possibly of augmenting the population in the North Cascades with grizzlies from out of state has raised the ire of the livestock industry, which worries about cattle depredation not only from grizzlies but from a growing population of gray wolves that have been designated as endangered by the state.

Endangered bighorn sheep moved to Yosemite, Sequoia parks

For the first time in a century, endangered Sierra Nevada bighorn sheep are back on their ancestral range and headed toward recovery, wildlife officials said Monday. During an ongoing relocation effort, hundreds of bighorn have been captured with nets dropped from helicopters then moved to Yosemite and Sequoia national parks. “We’ve got the sheep where we want them on a broad geographic basis, which is a huge milestone,” California Department of Fish and Wildlife biologist Tom Stephenson said. “We’ve still got to get their numbers up a bit.” Between 1914 and 1986, no bighorn roamed Yosemite, and statewide their numbers hit a low of about 100. The animals were placed on the federal endangered species list in 1999. Today, about 600 exist statewide in areas critical to their survival, Stephenson said. The number is about three-quarters the size called for in the state recovery plan that indicates the importance of the animals to the survivals of mountain lions, bobcats and coyotes. State biologists recently started moving sheep from thriving herds in Inyo National Forest, in the southern mountain range. Each was examined and fitted with a GPS tracking collar. Seven ewes and three rams are being relocated in the Laurel Creek area of Sequoia National Park, while nine ewes — eight of them pregnant — and three rams were trapped and released into Yosemite...more

Proposed national monument draws mixed reaction

A proposal to designate a vast, sparsely populated area surrounding the Grand Canyon as a national monument is getting mixed reactions. About 100 people gathered in Flagstaff to weigh in on the proposed Grand Canyon Watershed National Monument. Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick, who hosted the meeting, has said she is hopeful President Barack Obama will designate the 1.7-million-acre area as a national monument before he leaves office. The meeting Thursday was closed to the media, and Kirkpatrick declined through spokesman D.B. Mitchell to provide immediate comment. He cited the office’s policy of excluding reporters from meetings for stakeholders. Some people who showed up at the meeting said they were invited, while others said they heard about it indirectly. According to them, Kirkpatrick heard from environmental groups that want to protect the region’s water, large-diameter trees and wildlife corridors. She also heard from the Arizona Game and Fish Commission and sportsmen’s groups that oppose the effort to sidestep Congress and questioned the expense of running a national monument. Elsewhere, conservationists are looking to Obama to protect areas including the Dolores River in western Colorado, Utah’s Cedar Mesa region and land surrounding Canyonlands National Park, and the Berryessa Snow Mountain region in northern California...more

I found this interesting:

Supporters of the monument designation say it would help preserve archaeological sites, seeps and springs, promote the voluntary retirement of grazing permits and ensure that a major wildlife corridor isn’t harmed in the future.

How does a monument designation promote the voluntary retirement of grazing permits?  The most recent designations by Obama allow grazing to continue as long as its "consistent" with the purposes of the designation or the protection of the objects.  What the enviros are saying could only occur if there is language in the proclamation concerning buyouts of the permits. 

Mexican Wolf Gets Special Endangered Species Status

by Kenneth Artz

...This changed in January when the FWS announced the “experimental” phase of the wolves’ release is ending. Mexican wolves will not be lumped in with the main gray wolf species. Instead, the animals will receive their own classification as an “endangered,” subspecies, affording them greater protections and ensuring the Mexican wolves living in the wild can continue to roam freely.

Brian Seasholes, director of the Endangered Species Project at the Reason Foundation, says FWS is setting the stage for increased conflict by changing the listing and dramatically expanding the areas in which the wolves are protected.

“The key to the conservation of large predators is acceptance by the rural livestock owners who bear the brunt of these predators killing their animals. Absent a more substantive and comprehensive program to compensate ranchers for livestock killed by wolves, coupled with the vastly expanded region in which wolves can live—which will lead to a significantly larger wolf population—will result in more wolf-human conflict. This is bad for wolves and bad for ranchers,” Seasholes said.

“If pressure groups that are wolf advocates want Mexican wolves to repopulate large parts of the Southwest, then they, and the wealthy foundations and individuals who support them, should use their millions of dollars on fostering goodwill with ranchers by setting up and funding a serious compensation initiative; not the halfhearted compensation programs tried to date,” Seasholes said.

Perhaps in recognition of this problem, the Mexican wolves’ new endangered species listing did contain some unique provisions. For instance, although the wolves will be allowed to expand their territory to four times its current size, their range cannot extend north of Arizona’s Interstate 40. In addition, the Endangered Species Act (ESA) usually sets minimum population goals for species’ recoveries, not maximum numbers, but Mexican wolves will be allowed only to reach 325 members from the current 80. Excess wolves will be captured and relocated to Mexico.

In another key difference from standard ESA regulations, property owners will have the right to kill any wolf found biting, wounding, or killing any domestic animals (livestock or pets) on federal or private land, and wolves may also be killed if they create “unacceptable impacts to ungulates”—deer and other game animals valuable to hunters. The law normally forbids killing protected species without a specifically authorized take permit.

The Center for Biological Diversity has hinted it may challenge these special provisions.

Ron Arnold, executive vice-president of the Center for the Defense of Free Enterprise, says the designation of the Mexican wolf as a separate species or the expansion of the habit is not the most important aspect of this story. What’s more important is what will follow, he said: A federal land grab under the guise of a “critical habitat” designation for the Mexican wolves.

Courtroom Battle Likely in Fight Over the Village at Wolf Creek

After delaying their decision in the controversial land trade that is crucial for the development of the proposed Village at Wolf Creek, the U.S. Forest Service just green-lighted the project. Now, conservation advocates in Colorado are gearing up for a legal battle against the Forest Service in order to fight the development.  The Village at Wolf Creek has been the vision of Texas billionaire Billy Joe "Red" McCombs since the 1980s. Mr. McCombs, 87, has spent 28 years planning a massive town near Wolf Creek Ski Area, not far from Pagosa Springs, Colorado. At full build out, the Village at Wolf Creek will have up to 1,711 units comprised of hotels, condos, town homes, and single family houses. Access to the ski resort would be from the Alberta chairlift or a new chairlift called the Meadow lift.  In their November 20 decision, the Forest Service approved a 2010 land swap proposal that traded 204.4 federal acres on southern Colorado's Wolf Creek pass for 177.6 acres of private land on the Continental Divide.
But once the public comment period began in November, environmental and land advocacy groups went on full blast, causing the U.S. Forest Service to take another 30 days to analyze the land trade. Now, Rocky Mountain Region Deputy Regional Forester Maribeth Gustafson affirmed Dallas' November decision. In her latest report, Gustafon states that the November decision showed "no violation of law, regulation, or policy."...more

6 Things You May Not Know About Butch Cassidy

Cassidy's childhood home

1. Butch Cassidy’s family was among Utah’s early Mormon settlers.
The eldest of 13 children, Butch Cassidy was born Robert LeRoy Parker on April 13, 1866, in Beaver, Utah. His grandparents and parents were Mormons who moved from England to America in the 1850s in response to Brigham Young’s call for overseas members of the Church of Latter-day Saints to help establish communities in Utah. In 1879, the Parker family moved to a piece of property near Circleville, Utah, where they farmed and raised cattle. To help contribute to his family’s finances, the future Butch Cassidy left home to work at other ranches in the area. At age 13, while working at one of these ranches, he had his first run-in with the law after being accused of stealing a pair of overalls from a store. As the story goes, he’d made a long ride into town only to find the store closed, so he let himself in, took the pants and penned a note promising to return with payment. Instead, the store owner had him arrested. Although the teen was let off, the experience reportedly left him resentful toward the legal system and people in authority. 

4. The Sundance Kid wasn’t his best friend. 
Thanks to the Academy Award-winning 1969 film “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid,” starring Paul Newman and Robert Redford, the real-life Sundance Kid, Harry Alonzo Longabaugh, is often thought of as Cassidy’s best friend. In fact, that role was filled by Wild Bunch member William Ellsworth “Elzy” Lay (1868-1934). Cassidy and Lay likely met around 1889 while working at a ranch in Browns Park, an area near the borders of Utah, Colorado and Wyoming that served as a sometime hideout for outlaws. In 1899, Lay was convicted of killing a sheriff following a train robbery near Folsom, New Mexico. He received a life sentence but was pardoned in 1906 after helping to stop a prison riot. Longabaugh, the Pennsylvania-born son of a laborer who moved west as a teen, earned his colorful nickname (and an 18-month jail stint) after stealing a horse near Sundance, Wyoming in 1887. In the mid-1890s, Sundance met the woman who became his companion, Etta Place, and later became affiliated with the Wild Bunch, after he and Place resided in a tent near Butch Cassidy at Robbers Roost, a remote outlaw hideout in southeastern Utah.
6. The details of his death remain a mystery.
Some accounts hold that on November 4, 1908, near the town of Tupiza in southern Bolivia, two men thought to be Cassidy and the Sundance Kid robbed a payroll as it was being transported to the Aramayo mine. Three days later the supposed bandits arrived in San Vicente, Bolivia, but after villagers became suspicious that the strangers were connected to the robbery, Bolivian soldiers were called in and a shootout ensued. During the shootout, the Bolivians reportedly gunned down the suspects, or one of the outlaws killed his partner then turned the gun on himself. Afterward, the bodies were buried in unmarked graves in a San Vicente cemetery. In fact, there is no conclusive evidence linking Cassidy and Sundance to the robbery and shootout. In the late 20th century, researchers exhumed remains thought to be those of the payroll bandits from the San Vicente cemetery and determined they weren’t from the two American outlaws. Meanwhile, following the alleged deaths of Cassidy and Sundance in South America, there were multiple reports the two men had returned to the United States (it’s unclear whatever became of Etta Place), where they lived for a number of years under aliases. More than a century after their presumed deaths, the true fate of Butch and Sundance remains a mystery.

The Wild Bunch - Sundance far left, Cassidy far right

Ranch Radio Song Of The Day #1403

From their 2004 CD In This Life here is Open Road performing Suwannee River Hoedown


What do old trees tell us about future water?

Trees respond to water like all living things, and they make useful records of dry and wet seasons. When it’s wet, the trees flourish. When it’s dry, they’re stressed. All those responses show up in a tree’s rings. Using those ring records, dendrochronologists have been able to take a look back in time and get a sense of water and drought in the West. Last month, scientists at Utah State University, Brigham Young University and The U.S. Forest Service announced they’d traced the Bear River’s stream flow back 1,200 years. That’s long before Mormon pioneers started building the first towns and cities in the area, and longer than any other tree-ring record in northern Utah to date. “One of the key messages is there is no ‘normal,’” said Roger Kjelgren, a professor and plant scientist at USU. “(Northern Utah) really is like a grandfather clock. It oscillates back and forth, moving between orbiting around a dry period and then shifting and oscillating back to a wet period.” The trick is lining up all that wet-dry variation with climate models. Climate models do a good job at predicting temperatures, but they’re not as good at predicting future precipitation. That’s where the trees can help. “I wouldn’t say it’s a match made in heaven, but it’s kind of a jigsaw-puzzle fit, taking the past tree record from the tree rings and combining it with the climate models to get an idea of these cycles,” Kjelgren said. During a wet season, trees drink in water and grow proportionally. As the season dries, they harden and cell walls get darker. That’s how tree rings form. During dry years, the rings will be tiny, sometimes requiring a microscope to see. The Bear River tree-ring study went back 1,200 years with the help of Utah juniper trees, a particularly finicky and telling species when it comes to water...more

Texas Bill Would Bar Physicians From Talking Guns With Patients

If one Texas lawmaker’s bill is passed, patients may have a few less questions to answer at the doctor’s office. Stewart Spitzer (R-TX) has authored a bill which would essentially bar doctors from talking about guns with their patients. House Bill 2823 was introduced March 16th and not only prohibits doctors from asking if there are guns in the household, but also recommends doctors who continue to talk to patients about firearms be punished. “Pediatricians are asking children away from their parents, ‘Do you have guns in your house?’ and then reporting this on the electronic health records, and then the federal government, frankly, has access to who has guns and who doesn’t,” Spitzer said in a recent interview about the proposed legislation. He said he experienced the phenomenon firsthand when he took his daughter to the doctor, who asked her whether there were any guns in the house. While HB2823 has some parents breathing a sigh or relief, the medical community has had a far less enthusiastic reaction...more

Monday, March 30, 2015

Federal Land Management Not a Good Deal for Americans

by Marshal Wilson 

“By nearly all accounts, our federal lands are in trouble, both in terms of fiscal performance and environmental stewardship.” That was an assertion made earlier this month in a study released by the Property and Environment Research Center (PERC). The study focused on the difference between state-managed public lands and federally managed public lands. The federal government is ill-suited to manage vast amounts of land in the West. Short of private ownership, state and local governments are best suited for the task.

Federal Land Ownership. The federal government is the largest land owner in the United States, owning roughly 640 million acres, about 28 percent of the country. The federal government owns nearly half of the land west of the Rockies, and roughly 81 percent of Nevada alone. However, east of the Rockies, the federal government owns an average of only 5 percent of the land in each state. Such a high level of federal ownership of land in Western states has led to controversy over ownership and management of public lands...

PERC’s Findings. PERC conducted its study by comparing revenues and expenditures for the management of federal land and state trust land in New Mexico, Arizona, Idaho, and Montana. State trust lands are the most common form of state-owned lands in the West. State trust lands were created by land grants made to the states by the federal government and are used for the benefit of public institutions, like schools. The lands generate revenue through uses ranging from timber and grazing to mineral extraction. The study looked at two federal agencies that manage public land: the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and the United States Forest Service (USFS). According to the study,
  • “The federal government loses money managing valuable natural resources on federal lands, while states generate significant financial returns from state trust lands.”
  • “The states examined in this study earn an average of $14.51 for every dollar spent on state trust land management. The U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management generate only 73 cents in return for every dollar spent on federal land management.”
  • “On average, states generate more revenue per dollar spent than the federal government on a variety of land management activities, including timber, grazing, minerals, and recreation.” For example, New Mexico receives $12.78 of revenue per dollar spent on administering grazing fees, whereas the USFS and BLM receive $0.10 and $0.14, respectively.
  • “These outcomes are the result of the different statutory, regulatory, and administrative frameworks that govern state and federal lands. States have a fiduciary responsibility to generate revenues from state trust lands, while federal land agencies face overlapping and conflicting regulations and often lack a clear mandate.”


BLM allows old unplugged wells to fester in Utah, former employee’s report says

The Seep Ridge No. 3 well never produced much oil and gas. And it has been dormant since 2000 — five years after the well was acquired by a one-man Vernal energy company called Hot Rod Oil. But in defiance of Bureau of Land Management policy, several Hot Rod wells remain unplugged and unreclaimed along with hundreds of other nonproducing wells on federal lands in Utah, according to a new analysis by a retired BLM official who conducted well inspections for the agency's Vernal field office. Such "orphaned" wells unnecessarily enlarge the oil and gas industry's footprint on Utah's landscape, according Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, which released the analysis Monday. Uncapped wells allow disturbed land at well sites to go unreclaimed and could potentially pollute the environment, the group argues. Stan Olmstead, a 20-year veteran of the BLM's Vernal field office who now lives in Tennessee, has compiled years of well status data related to four BLM field offices. His analysis identified 557 unplugged wells that haven't produced for the past 10 years. Most of the wells are in the Uinta Basin, administered by the Vernal office — the nation's busiest for energy development. Olmstead's report dovetails with an Associated Press analysis released last year that found a large number of Vernal's "high-priority" wells are going too long without inspections...more

The Rise of Outdoor Recreation

When President Obama picked REI president and chief executive Sally Jewell almost two years ago to be the 51st Secretary of the Interior of the United States, it was, like a snowball rolling downhill, a clear signal of gathering momentum for outdoor recreation. April 10 will mark two years in office for Jewell, who left her position as the head of one of the world’s biggest and most recognizable outdoor recreation retailers to lead the Interior Department. With her arrival in Washington, a story whose plot had been slowly developing for decades finally had a protagonist to support its other main characters, the millions of Americans who hike, bike, camp, backpack, ski, paddle and otherwise play in the outdoors.  In the past, the balance of that equation has been tipped in favor of development and extraction. See James Watt, Gale Norton. And while other Interior secretaries can certainly be applauded for their conservation ethic and achievements, Jewell brings a new sensibility that goes beyond simply setting land aside to protect it. Her appointment is symbolic of how America’s love of outdoor recreation is now shaping the nation’s political and economic landscape. Take, for example, America’s newest national monument, which Jewell’s agency will co-manage with the U.S. Forest Service. Browns Canyon in Colorado is iconic; 21,000 acres of rugged granite cliffs and colorful rock formations, a wild stretch of the Arkansas River slicing through it, bighorn sheep, bear, deer, mountain lions, and breathtaking vistas. Certainly qualities one would expect from a national monument. But Browns Canyon is also one of the single most popular whitewater rafting destinations in the country, attracting upward of 200,000 adventurous visitors a year, who happen to inject about $60 million into the regional economy in central Colorado. That kind of impact and popularity is hard to ignore, and similar stories are playing out across the country. Nationwide, all that outdoor fun has become a powerful economic driver, generating $646 billion in annual consumer spending nationwide. Politically, the groups and associations that represent human-powered outdoor recreation are becoming more professional and organized. And as they do, they are coming of age as strong voices advocating for policies that support their constituents, especially on issues such as protecting public lands. Once the province of the backwoods, hiking, backpacking, canoeing, snowshoeing, kayaking, mountain biking, climbing and other outdoor mainstays have blazed a trail into boardrooms and ballot boxes.  The rise of outdoor recreation is noteworthy, and Resource Media has prepared a backgrounder with more details on the many ways that it is helping shape America’s story. Read on here.

Ranch Radio Song Of The Day #1402

Its Swingin' Monday and here's Wanda Vick and her instrumental version of Deep Water.  The tune is on her 2008 CD Romance at the Rodeo Dance


Bison preserve seeks to change federal grazing permits

American Prairie Reserve has applied to graze bison and remove interior fences on federally leased lands within the boundaries of a ranch that the organization purchased last year in south Phillips County. The Bureau of Land Management is seeking comments on the proposal to develop an environmental assessment for the Flat Creek Allotment. The Bozeman-based American Prairie Reserve is also requesting to change the allotment grazing season to year-round from the current May 1-Nov. 15 grazing season. The BLM gave approval for a similar request about four years ago on other APR federal grazing leases, according to B.J. Rhodes, a BLM rangeland management specialist. Bison have become a controversial topic in Eastern Montana as conservation groups have pressed to release disease-free wild bison from Yellowstone National Park onto federal lands like the Charles M. Russell National Wildlife Refuge. Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks is working on a state bison management plan, but progress has been slow and opposition stout, including hotly debated bills introduced in the Legislature to halt any wild bison releases. Requests such as APR’s are particularly hard for the locals to swallow since they don’t want bison on the landscape but are strong advocates of private property rights. Federal grazing leases on the property total 13,075 acres, Rhodes said, or 1,243 animal unit months — an indicator of the amount of forage consumed. The AUMs and carrying capacity of the public lands would remain unchanged. All regulations for grazing public lands would apply and all grazing management would continue to adhere to the Standards for Rangeland Health. American Prairie Reserve purchased the 22,000-acre Holzhey Ranch last year...more

Proposed bill would limit federal land control

The ongoing debate over federal control of lands in Nevada will heat up again this week with a hearing on a bill proposed by Assemblywoman Michele Fiore that would prohibit the federal government from owning or managing any lands that it has not acquired with the consent of the Legislature. Assembly Bill 408 also would prohibit the federal government from owning water rights in the state. The bill is just the latest in the Republican-controlled Legislature challenging the federal government’s authority over more than 80 percent of the acres in Nevada. Fiore, R-Las Vegas, sent out an email last week asking for supporters to attend the Tuesday hearing in the Assembly Natural Resources, Agriculture and Mining Committee. Critics say Fiore’s bill is unconstitutional and is based on a flawed legal theory about public lands, noting that on numerous occasions the U.S. Supreme Court has described the federal authority over public lands as “without limitation.”...more

A copy of Assembly Bill 408 is here.

EDITORIAL: Keep exceptions for seasonal ag workers

Proposed changes to an immigration policy concerning temporary agricultural workers demonstrate, once again, that the nation's urban decision-makers just don't understand life in the West.

The U.S. Department of Labor is preparing to release new rules for the H-2A visa program, covering agricultural workers from other countries who work in the United States on a temporary basis.
The changes are expected to be published on April 15, and were reportedly prompted by a lawsuit charging the Labor Department with violating federal law by allowing special – and substandard – rules for livestock herders. Now, the department is preparing to shepherd its new requirements through the larger rule-making process.

We wholeheartedly support strong protections for migrant workers, and we have a strong hunch that most Montanans also feel that seasonal workers who come to this state to work in any industry ought be given fair compensation and comfortable housing, at the very least. However, providing those protections does not necessarily require the sort of restrictions the Labor Department is suggesting.

Ranchers across Montana who employ workers through the H-2A visa program are worried that the new rules may obligate them to provide housing on a permanent foundation and to pay their workers an hourly wage. Needless to say, these kinds of requirements are ill-suited to life on the open range.

2 Wyoming ranching families are part of Japanese advertising campaign to promote US beef

Two Wyoming ranch families are part of an advertising campaign to promote and increase the demand for American beef in Japan. The U.S. Meat Export Federation chose Carol and Charlie Farthing and their family of Iron Mountain and Adam and Meghan George and their family of Cody for the campaign. An article about the Farthings was posted earlier this year on the federation's promotional website for Japan. A story about the George family will be available later this spring, Anne Wittmann, executive director of the Wyoming Beef Council, said in a news release. The profiles are written in Japanese and are translated from ones that have appeared on the Wyoming Beef Council's website. The Beef Council has written about these families to show the commitment and care it takes to provide high-quality beef, Wittmann said. The campaign has directly reached about 420,000 Japanese consumers, Wittmann told the Wyoming Tribune Eagle. However, the campaign has reached millions of people through contact with distributors, bloggers and food editors in Japan and social media, according to Joe Schuele, vice president of communications for the U.S. Meat Export Federation. The federation is a nonprofit trade association that creates new and develops existing international markets for U.S. beef, pork, lamb and veal. Japan has been a large market for United States beef for a long time, Schuele said. International beef trade between the United States and Japan closed in 2002 when the U.S. reported its first case of BSE, a disease more commonly known as mad cow disease. The market reopened in 2006, and all restrictions were lifted in 2014. Now, Japan has reclaimed its spot as the top international market for U.S. beef, Schuele said. Last year set a record value of U.S. beef sold in Japan, reaching $1.6 billion, he said...more

Floyd’s Hinrichs honored

When Bruce Hinrichs, like everyone else in the crowd at the Floyd Jamboree Saturday night, was anticipating the announcement of the 2015 Floyd Lions Club citizen of the year. He just didn’t expect to hear his name. “It’s one of those speechless moments,” Hinrichs said. “I was just humbled and grateful.” The citizen award is the highlight of Saturday night tradition at the Jamboree, now in its 65th running with socializing and country music. The presenter, Floyd Schools Superintendent Paul Benoit, said Hinrichs had been chosen for his passion for the Floyd community and the work he does to help local farmers, ranchers and 4-H students. “He believes in the organization,” Benoit said. “He has just jumped in and he’s always the first to arrive and the last to leave and he does it all with a passion.”...more

Moonshine: The American Rebel Spirit

Moonshine evokes imagery of outlaw distillers practicing their craft by the light of the moon to evade the law. But Prohibition ended in 1933. Why are illegal moonshiners still a thing?  "To make this liquor on your own is really exciting to a lot of people. It's under the radar. It remains against the law to make distilled spirits even though wine and beer you can make legally [without a permit]," explains Jaime Joyce, author of Moonshine: A Cultural History of America's Infamous LiquorAccording to Joyce, it's also a matter of economics. Illegal moonshine is most prevalent in poor, rural America where getting licensed to make and sell distilled spirits comes with prohibitive costs. To a financially strapped family, it's more beneficial to risk jail and be able to afford food on the table than it is to shell out hundreds of dollars in fees.  Joyce sat down with Reason TV's Anthony L. Fisher to discuss the economics and cultural significance of moonshine, it's role in the creation of NASCAR, and why this old school tradition has grown so popular among urban hipsters...more


Utes visited valley into early 1950s

Jim Tomlinson remembers playing with young Ute Indians on a knoll above the railroad stockyards in Mack in the late 1940s. Some of the Ute youngsters had never seen a train, he said, so when the locomotive pulled in and blew its whistle, “they would whoop and holler, they were so excited.” Many current residents of the Grand Valley know that some Ute Indians who were forced out of Colorado in 1881 regularly returned to visit in the late 19th and early 20th century. The Daily Sentinel frequently reported on the visits of these Utes, as when it told of Chipeta’s final visit to Colorado in September 1923. Chipeta, the wife of the late Ute leader Ouray, was the most famous of the Utah Utes who regularly visited Colorado. She died in 1924 at her home at Bitter Creek on the Uintah-Ouray reservation in Utah. But other Utes continued to come to the Grand Valley on a regular basis, particularly those from the Bitter Creek area. They arrived every fall with several hundred head of cattle to ship to Denver from the railroad center at Mack, Tomlinson said...more

Cattle & Citrus

ARCADIA — In 1887, cattle rancher James Shelfer moved his family to Florida from Texas and began planting orange trees along the Joshua Creek. Four generations later, his great-great grandson Kevin Shelfer and his wife, Lynn, are over a 1,000 boxes of citrus a week up north and bringing back “old time Florida” at the same time. James Shelfer died not long after his arrival to the area, killed by a broken neck when he was thrown off a bucking horse, explained Kevin. James’ wife and three living sons continued the family ranch and grove, which was passed down to Kevin through his great-grandfather Dan Shelfer, grandfather Arthur Shelfer, and father Dan Shelfer. But it was Kevin and Lynn who started the well-known mail-order business and retail store known as Joshua Citrus in 1989. With its retro signage, fresh-squeezed OJ, and orange-flavored ice cream, the packinghouse and outdoor store feels like a throwback to the old Florida that existed before the coasts became stacked up with condos and when no one had ever heard the term “citrus greening.” “We just kind of fell into it,” said Kevin, who explained that the couple were running a plant nursery at the time. “We had a friend that had a gift fruit shipping business, and we just thought it would be kind of neat,” added Lynn, who is also from a citrus family. “We started small.” By “small” she means she and her husband packed the fruit themselves, spraying the wax on with a spray bottle. They carried their packages to the post office. ”It was just us and we did it,” Lynn went on. “We were excited if we had eight or 10 (packages) a week!” Twenty-six years later, the bustling grove and packinghouse at 4135 County Road 760 grows 13 different varieties of citrus and ships between 1500 and 2000 boxes of fruit a week during the busiest time of the year...more

100 years ago today, the Valley made Los Angeles big

Today is the centennial of, arguably, the most significant public vote in the history of Los Angeles. The ranchers and townsfolk of the lightly populated San Fernando Valley voted overwhelmingly to join the small city of grand ambitions on the far side of the mountains — Los Angeles. In one stroke, Los Angeles more than doubled in size. The San Fernando Valley is large enough to hold all of Boston, San Francisco and Washington D.C. Los Angeles got territory, about 170 square miles in all, but not very much new population. The election counted just 706 votes: 681 for annexation, 25 opposed.  As a result of the decision to be annexed, the Valley's farms, dairies and ranches — and newly erected startup towns — gained access to the Owens River water that had begun flowing two years earlier down the aqueduct built by LA's chief water engineer, William Mulholland. The public vote to authorize construction of the aqueduct is probably the only other vote that comes close to shaping the Los Angeles we know.  The annexation event is commemorated on what has been my favorite map of Los Angeles. This is the official Annexation and Detachment Map kept by the office of the city engineer that shows 292 separate transactions which, taken together, form the city limits that we know today. The original Spanish pueblo of Los Angeles was, what, about 28 square miles. The city dates itself to 1781, and since then it has been swallowing up land in all directions (minus a few small deletions.) The classic map I have long admired has undergone a freshening up for the web since Eric Garcetti became mayor, but you can still see the holes in the original San Fernando Valley annexation tract. The farming towns of Lankershim (later to be re-dubbed North Hollywood) and Owensmouth (now Canoga Park) did not come into Los Angeles in the great annexation vote of March 29, 1915. They didn't join until later...more

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Cowgirl Sass & Savvy

Hard-stoppin’ win

by Julie Carter

Cowboy stories are shared over and over and usually last through several generations. As a rule, they either impart a lesson, offer simple entertainment value or sometimes the stories are an opening overture for a new friendship.

Cowboys value humor almost as much as they value grass and a gifted storyteller will find himself in demand at about every gathering in the county.  When strangers move into an area, the storyteller is certain to show up to give them his welcome. His real mission is to make them the beneficiary of the wildest of his stories in his repertoire since there is no way for the newcomers to determine any lack of truth.

Such is the story of Rocky and Gene which are fictitious names to protect the liars but the story telling is true.

Rocky just moved to the county, bought a nice little place, put few cattle out on grass to make it look right, tuned up his fishing pole, built a new roping arena and proceeded to move into what he liked to think of as semi-retirement.

Gene dropped by one day to help Rocky out with the Coors Lite inventory in the saddle house icebox. With the big W’s on his Wrangler pockets settled onto an upside down five-gallon bucket, Gene opened the conversation.

“Rocky, you ever rope any calves?”

Recognizing this as an intro to a story, Rocky allowed that he had roped a few, way back when.

There followed a Navajo length of silence just to make sure Rocky didn’t want to tell a story first, then Gene began his story about how he won the buckle at the big rodeo.

“I had been calf roping pretty steady for a good while, but I was always coming in fourth when they were paying three places or eighty-fourth when they paid eighty-three places,” lamented Gene.

He went on to say he had figured out, after giving it considerable thought, that what he needed to win was a calf horse with a real good stop on him.  He put out the word and not long after he got a call from a fellow he knew. This guy claimed he had just the horse Gene was looking for and assured him that he had a real good stop. In fact, he had named him Stop Hard.

The trade was made over the phone and arrangements were detailed to meet at the big rodeo with the horse. Gene was entered up in the calf roping and when they called his name, he backed his new horse into the roping box.

When everything was just right, he nodded and made a clean break from the barrier. He stood up in his stirrups and threw his best catch’em-fast loop.

That was the horse’s signal and he planted his backside in dirt like he’d been pole axed.  This launched Gene straight between ole Stop Hard’s ears.

In an effort to save his life, Gene grabbed the rope on the way to the ground and slid down it like a handrail until he got to the calf.  He knocked the calf over with his head and while he was in the neighborhood, he tied up three of the calf’s legs and threw up his hands.

Turned out that was the fastest time of the day. He won the event, got his buckle and almost enough money to cover the entry fee. He was a happy man albeit a little crippled up from the crash landing.

Out back behind the chutes, when the rodeo was over and all the other ropers came by to congratulate him and admire the buckle, he managed to swap off that “calf horse with the real good stop.”  That made him an even happier man.

And Rocky was real happy he wasn’t in need of a hard stoppin’ calf horse.

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

The EPA - Jack Boots Cometh

Fear of the almighty (not the Almighty)
Jack Boots Cometh
By Stephen L. Wilmeth

            The notice announced the agency will solicit more feedback from farmers, Ag companies, and academics before moving ahead with a first-of-its-kind plan to curb the spreadof corn rootworms that can damage insect resistant GMO corn and survive. The presiding feds also forewarned that they may need to impose requirements that disallow year to year corn rotation in some areas.
            Of course, the fear of this almighty (not the Almighty) has set the stage for producers, seed companies, and Constitutionalists to wring their hands yet again and add worry to the fear of limitations imposed on American farmers to make their own business decisions. The expected industry reaction was accompanied by the expected default suggestion that some academics say the step is long overdue to maintain the GMO corn’s effectiveness.
            The agency in question is not the USDA which used to focus on all matters of American agriculture production. No, that agency has set its own evolutionary path toward expanding its role in engineering social welfare programs and rural community organizing matters. The agency setting course for its self directed and assumed calling of ruling the entire environmental universe is none other than … the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
            From Nixon’s hand
            Before we set the stage to cast further aspersions on the character of one Dick Nixon, the matter of public comments must be addressed. To those who loyally take the call for comments to heart and expend honest effort in objective responses for the creation of rules and regulations, the best case outcome has been woefully disappointing. There is little expectation that the adopted rules will be crafted in the best interest of those who actually face the directed assaults. The best case scenario for that citizenry has become recognition by the courts in order to sue in the aftermath of implementation.
            That theoretically still keeps the citizenry in the framework of the debate if, of course, they have the wherewithal to pony up the greenbacks.
            The truth is, power accrual in the implementation of the law is always the goal. Comments are just window dressing. The agenda of the power structure is the driving force and the affected citizenry is at best secondary. That is why Washington systematically doesn’t work.
             Nixon proposed the creation of EPA for the purpose of writing and enforcing regulations based on various laws, but most specifically the National Environmental Policy Act passed by Congress in 1969. Nixon was also the presidential signer of that historic act.
The EPA began operation in 1970 following another of the Nixon actions in the form of an executive order authorizing its creation.  To this day, the EPA is still not a Cabinet level department even though its administrator is normally given cabinet rank.
            It is a state within itself although it doesn’t have an official governor or dog catcher. The current agency has just over 15,000 employees and engages an unknown number of contractors. Its 2015 budget is $7.9 billion which happens to be $1.6 billion more than the annual budget of my home state of New Mexico.
            From an historical perspective, the agency rides shotgun over the big three natural resources that provide the foundation for our existence. That, of course, is air, water, and soil, or, as the official description implies … land.
            The number of environmental laws its tentacles have ensnared is fairly impressive. In the matter of air, there are 10 primary ones. From water, there are another 13 pieces of legislation, and from land there are 11.
             The horizons were expanded beyond foundational resource protections when the next two environmental materfamilias were cast into causes. Those grandiose bifurcations were endangered species and hazardous wastes. Another 15 laws required the agency’s diligent regulatory creation. Seemingly, the role of saving the environmental universe was nowhere near half life.
Not to be lax in saving the known environment, though, the agency ventured off into the energy sector in 1992. That was joined by pesticides, detergents, fuel economy, oil pollution, water use efficiency, radiation protection, and potable water supplies. The latter inspired the urge to venture off shore, so, in 2004 the OSV Bold, a Stalwart class ocean surveillance ship, was commissioned to go forth and monitor anything that might be dumped into the ocean. In 2013, the agency sold the boat to Seattle Central Community College for five grand for students to set up shop and determine the highest and best use of environmental surveillance.
With such conquests, the question must be asked … will imagination be the next frontier of entry for this agency’s regulatory quest?
            Global warming and water
            Before we get to imagination, two professionalized and induced moral assaults remain. That would be global warming and the attempt to alter the Clean Water Act (CWA).
First, there is the nebulous danger to mankind …global warming.
            The matter of global warming (or climate change) has never been codified in law. Although, there is a gang within congressional ranks who are fully vested in the notion, there has never been a congressional directive. It has been the agencies, led by EPA and started by a Bush era administrator, Stephen L. Johnson, that have seized authority in the matter.
            In 2007, Johnson approved a draft document that declared man-made climate change imperiled public welfare. It was not accepted by the Bush Oval Office. Johnson resigned in protest, but the machine was ready for action. The agency set a course for regulatory controls anyway.
            The CWA bolstered the authority of the EPA dramatically. It was passed on the premise to protect the primary responsibilities and rights of the Statesand … to consult with the (EPA) Administrator in the exercise of his authority under this Act, but, like most legislative outcomes, those words became largely convenient filler. The current battle rages over the agency’s decision to rewrite the law through regulatory fiat by simply dropping the word ‘navigable’ from the reference of waters of the United States. That simple change alters the authority of the administrator from defined parameters to every puddle of water as well as inland and coastal waterways.
Congressional committees have been convened to counter the action, but nobody has yet threatened the agency with a budget cut that would stifle their unbridled nonsense and unlawful quest for authority.
            That brings us back to the matter of imagination.
            A quick search reveals the agency is assuming greater conformity to 1930 era jack boot outreach paradigms for the mushy, malleable minds of academia (MMMA). The money is coming from the agency’s National StudentDesign Competition Focus on People, Prosperity, and the Planet.
In southern California, a grant has been given to UC Riverside to conceptualize and convert into practice methods to capture toxins released in the process of backyard grilling. Since the MMMA crew’s latitude is undefined, the assumption is they are free to go to the ends of the earth to come up with novel ways to police the lawless grillers. That will be particularly important in the particulate output generated from choice rather than select marbling characteristics of beef since it is increasingly monitored and controlled from all aspects of the regulatory spectrum.
            Another program in the pipeline harkens back to abusive uses of water. Control is forthcoming through the auspices of Urban Water Planning. One project is to monitor the amount of water hotel guests use while showering. The data will identify and track excessive users. It will also clarify what is acceptable per showering experience. With such intrusion of privacy, one can only surmise how the bathers will be identified.
            The bottom line is the imagination of the regulatory almighty is becoming incalculable, and … it will remain so as long as we, the policed subjects, dutifully pay our taxes.
             Real imagination
            As long as the go-along-to-get-along, flimflamming elite and want-a-be conservatives concede on every budget negotiation, there will be no change in the growing tyranny. The abuse the American taxpayer has taken is simply staggering. Americans are sick of the antics of confusion and breach of oath witnessed each day in Washington. Rather than strengthening any measure of resistance, Congress creates confusion and chaos.
            The real imagination is demonstrated in the heartland. It comes from the constant belt tightening and restructuring that tax payers must accomplish to accommodate the assault on their lives and freedoms.
            Half of the answer lies in defunding rogue agencies. There is neither self policing nor are there bounds regarding regulatory fiat in the face of the ineffective oversight. Control must start with the EPA and … it must continue through every expanding agency fiefdom.

            Stephen L. Wilmeth is a rancher from southern New Mexico. “Notwithstanding the recent ruling by the Supreme Court, if the spirit of a law is changed through the crafting of agenda driven regulations, that is the creation of law without representation.”

Do biofuel policies seek to cut emissions by cutting food?

A study published today in the journal Science found that government biofuel policies rely on reductions in food consumption to generate greenhouse gas savings. Shrinking the amount of food that people and livestock eat decreases the amount of carbon dioxide that they breathe out or excrete as waste. The reduction in food available for consumption, rather than any inherent fuel efficiency, drives the decline in carbon dioxide emissions in government models, the researchers found. "Without reduced food consumption, each of the models would estimate that biofuels generate more emissions than gasoline," said Timothy Searchinger, first author on the paper and a research scholar at Princeton University's Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs and the Program in Science, Technology, and Environmental Policy. The study looked at three models used by U.S. and European agencies, and found that all three estimate that some of the crops diverted from food to biofuels are not replaced by planting crops elsewhere. About 20 percent to 50 percent of the net calories diverted to make ethanol are not replaced through the planting of additional crops, the study found. Both the models used by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the California Air Resources Board indicate that ethanol made from corn and wheat generates modestly fewer emissions than gasoline. The fact that these lowered emissions come from reductions in food production is buried in the methodology and not explicitly stated, the study found. The European Commission's model found an even greater reduction in emissions. It includes reductions in both quantity and overall food quality due to the replacement of oils and vegetables by corn and wheat, which are of lesser nutritional value. "Without these reductions in food quantity and quality, the [European] model would estimate that wheat ethanol generates 46% higher emissions than gasoline and corn ethanol 68% higher emissions," Searching said...more

Governments would actually deceive us to justify their political agenda?

And we're the lucky ones who pay the salaries of these modelers, who pay for the subsidies going to the biofuels industry and who pay more at the pump for fuel.  Say "thank you" to the DC Deep Thinkers in both political parties.

The Tip of the Climate Spending Iceberg

by Paul Driessen

Lockheed Martin, a recent Washington Post article notes, is getting into renewable energy, nuclear fusion, “sustainability” and even fish farming projects, to augment its reduced defense profits. The company plans to forge new ties with Defense Department and other Obama initiatives, based on a shared belief in manmade climate change as a critical security and planetary threat. It is charging ahead where other defense contractors have failed, confident that its expertise, lobbying skills and “socially responsible” commitment to preventing climate chaos will land it plentiful contracts and subsidies.

As with its polar counterparts, 90% of the titanic climate funding iceberg is invisible to most citizens, businessmen and politicians. The Lockheed action is the mere tip of the icy mountaintop.

The multi-billion-dollar agenda reflects the Obama Administration’s commitment to using climate change to radically transform America. It reflects a determination to make the climate crisis industry so enormous that no one will be able to tear it down, even as computer models and disaster claims become less and less credible – and even if Republicans control Congress and the White House after 2016. Lockheed is merely the latest in a long list of regulators, researchers, universities, businesses, manufacturers, pressure groups, journalists and politicians with such strong monetary, reputational and authority interests in alarmism that they will defend its tenets and largesse tooth and nail.

Above all, it reflects a conviction that alarmists have a right to control our energy use, lives, livelihoods and living standards, with no transparency and no accountability for mistakes they make or damage they inflict on disfavored industries and families...

But Climate Crisis, Inc. is using our tax and consumer dollars to advance six simultaneous strategies...

Driessens' conclusions are similar to Wilmeth's:

States must refuse to play the climate crisis game. Through lawsuits, hearings, investigations and other actions, governors, legislators, AGs and other officials can delay EPA diktats, educate citizens about solar and other natural forces, and explain the huge costs and trifling benefits of these draconian regulations. 

Congress should hold hearings, demand an accounting of agency expenditures, require solid evidence for every climate claim and regulation, and cross-examine Administration officials on details. It should slash EPA and other agency budgets, so they cannot keep giving billions to pressure groups, propagandists and attack dogs. Honesty, transparency, accountability and a much shorter leash are long overdue.

Proposed federal changes for foreign ag workers could affect Montana sheepherder

A proposal by the U.S. Department of Labor to change policies governing foreign agricultural workers – including sheepherders – has left the Montana Department of Labor and Industry busy answering questions from state ranchers. This week, western Montana rancher John Stahl voiced concern that a proposed federal policy change would jeopardize his sheep grazing project on Missoula’s open space and cost his hired hand – Enrique Marquez Banda – his job. Some ranchers, like Stahl, fear the changes would no longer allow them to pay their workers a monthly salary. Rather, they'd be required to pay their foreign workers $8.05 an hour when on the job, which runs 24 hours a day. Stahl and other Montana ranchers have also expressed concern over a second proposed change that would require foreign workers to live in homes with a fixed foundation. That would preclude them from living in wagons or trailers, which is common among sheepherders. Harris said the proposed change applies to foreign agricultural workers, though it will likely include an exemption for sheepherders. “It’s our understanding that sheepherders would receive an exemption for that, but it’s all just a proposal right now,” Harris said. “Our offices in Missoula, Hamilton and Helena have been receiving calls on this all day. They’re concerned about the changes.”...more

Ranch Radio Song Of The Day #1401

This song goes out to the family of Sara Cox Hopkins.  My heart goes out to you.  Cody Shuler & Pine Mountain Railroad - I Bowed On My Knees And Cried Holy.  The tune is on their 2008 CD Pickin' Praisin' & Singin' Hymns From The Mountains. 


Saturday, March 28, 2015

School District Losing Thousands in School Lunch Sales

BUNCOMBE COUNTY, N.C. -- Thousands of students have now stopped buying lunch each week in Buncombe County cafeterias. The district says it all started when schools were forced to implement the USDA's Healthy Hunger Free Kids Act. It was part of first lady Michelle Obama's "Let's Move" initiative to get kids to eat healthier. All of a sudden, kids are pitching pounds of food in the garbage. The 2010 Healthy Hunger Free Kids Act slapped strict salt regulations on schools saying nothing but whole grains, and now fruit and veggies must be on the tray. It they're not on there, the cashier must put them there for students. Hundreds of kids have now dropped out of the lunch program. Over the last two years, Buncombe County says they've lost about $1.2 million in sales. It's downsized its staff, equipment is getting old and the current menu has less options...more

Jobs gone, loss of income, fewer options...just another Obama program...in this case the War on Meat.

Friday, March 27, 2015

Special forces set to swarm Southwest and operate undetected among civilians in massive military exercise

Seven Southwestern states will soon be infiltrated by 1,200 military special ops personnel as part of a controversial domestic military training in which some of the elite soldiers will operate undetected among civilians. Operation Jade Helm begins in July and will last for eight weeks. Soldiers will operate in and around towns in Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, California, Nevada, Utah and Colorado where some of them wil drop from planes while carrying weapons loaded with blanks in what military officials have dubbed Realistic Military Training. But with residents of the entire states of Texas and Utah dubbed 'hostile' for the purposes of the exercises, Jade Helm has some concerned the drills are too realistic. 
The Houston Chronicle reports that, among the planned exercises, soldiers will attempt to operate undetected among civilian populations. Residents, in turn, will be asked to report suspicious activity in order to gauge the effectiveness of the soldiers. Military officials say they've gotten the go ahead for the operations from local authorities such as mayors and county commissions. 'The size and scope of Jade Helm sets this one apart. To stay ahead of the environmental challenges faced overseas, Jade Helm will take place across seven states,' the USASOC wrote in a March 24 release. 'The diverse terrain in these states replicates areas Special Operations Soldiers regularly find themselves operating in overseas.' The military has also reacted to widespread fear of the operation by calling some ultra-conservative coverage of the 'martial law' drills alarmist and inaccurate...more

High Hopes - Willie Nelson Is Launching His Own Brand of Weed

There will be branded bongs and stores, too, as Willie gets out ahead of big industry in states where pot is legal.

by James Joiner

Willie Nelson takes a hit of the cigarette-sized vaporizer in his gnarled hand, exhaling a small cloud, before placing it on the foldout table in front of us. We’re seated in the cool enclave of his tour bus, at the entrance to his sprawling property just outside Austin, Texas, which he has dubbed the town of Luck. Up a hill and around a corner, people are rocking out at Willie’s own Heartbreaker Banquet, an annual fundraiser/music festival held concurrently with SXSW.

Now 81, Willie is biding his time before joining the festivities, and we’re talking about why he puts on the event every year. In the process, he lets slip that he has something else in the works: a new brand of weed, called, naturally, Willie’s Reserve.

Pressed on this, he’s either dismissive or coy, though he does indicate that the smoking implement he has again picked up is a part of the line. The PR person promises to connect me with Michael Bowman, a veteran hemp and pot lobbyist who serves as the fledgling brand’s spokesperson. Two days later, much colder, much more sober, and back in my native New England, Bowman and I connect by phone.

The discussion is below, but the rub is that the marijuana world is about to get its first connoisseur brand, edging it farther from an illegal substance and closer to the realm of fine wines.

Gimme that dang land!

by Steve Sebelius

It’s the map that galls them. The map of Nevada, painted mostly red to depict how much of the state is owned or managed by the federal government. That scarlet is an indignity that they see every day on the windswept plains of their state.

They’re the ranchers, outdoorsmen, hunters, trappers and public officials who’ve been trying for decades to wrest the 81 percent of Nevada’s lands held by “the feds” into state, local or private hands.
In the late 1970s and 1980s, the Sagebrush Rebellion saw Western officials try to gain more control over federal lands in their states. Nevada — considered the heart of the rebellion — had been chafing under federal land ownership for decades before that.

In 1955, the Nevada Legislature sought to repeal a section in the ordinance portion of the state constitution that “forever disclaim(ed) all right and title to the unappropriated public lands lying within said territory, and that the same shall be and remain at the sole and entire disposition of the United States.” It was a legally meaningless act, however.

Court fights, state laws and other legal maneuverings didn’t do much to change the color on that irksome map, either. “I don’t want to say we’ve lost,” says state Sen. Pete Goicoechea, R-Eureka. “But we certainly haven’t won.”

Now, led by Goicoechea — whose district stretches from the Idaho border all the way south to Primm — the state is advancing the ideals of the Sagebrush Rebellion on a new front: A formal resolution requesting the government turn over just 7.2 million acres — around 10 percent of federal holdings in Nevada — to state management.

Senate Joint Resolution 1, sponsored by Goicoechea and state Sen. Don Gustavson, R-Sparks, along with a handful of conservative Assembly members, is based on the work of the Nevada Land Management Task Force, authorized by the 2013 Legislature under a bill Goicoechea fought hard to pass.

The task force, headed by Elko County Commissioner Demar Dahl, met every month between June 2013 and August 2014 to study the idea of federal transfer of land to the state, and made several reports to an interim legislative committee. (A final report was not heard after the committee’s chairman, now-former Assemblyman Paul Aizley, D-Las Vegas, declined to hold a vote. As a result, Goicoechea introduced the resolution in this session of the Legislature.)

The 130-page report is heavy on details and promises: The state would gain title to certain lands, mostly designated for disposal already, excluding wilderness areas, National Conservation Areas, land controlled by federal agencies such as the Energy Department, Defense Department and environmentally sensitive land.

Assembly bill continues Bundy saga

Outspoken Bunkerville rancher Cliven Bundy told the Desert Valley Times Wednesday he plans to be at the front of a contingent of Nevadans planning to rally at the Capitol in Carson City Tuesday to show support for AB408, a bill that “reclaims” rights to Nevada land from the federal government. The Legislative Counsel says section 3 of AB408, which was sponsored by GOP Assemblywoman Michele Fiore, “prohibits the federal government from owning or administrating any land or resources in the state that it has not acquired with the consent of the Nevada Legislature and upon which it has not erected forts, magazines, arsenals, dockyards or other needful buildings.” The bill prohibits the federal government from owning any Nevada water rights; requires that state land registration of grazing, logging, mineral development or any other beneficial use rights on public lands “including land to which the federal government claims ownership or ships. The registrar must award such rights to the first person who puts the land to those beneficial uses, and hold an auction to sell permits to use. County commissioners can impose a tax on the unit sold through the beneficial use of public lands.” “We feel like we’ve got a good bill that represents ‘we the people,’” Bundy said of AB408. “This bill is promoting the U.S. Constitution; the state sovereignty and law, and county government. We feel like we’re in tune with ‘we the people.’”...more

Elko legislators not supporting Bundy bill

ELKO – A land grab bill backed by embattled rancher Cliven Bundy is failing to garner support from local officials. Assembly Bill 408, sponsored by Republican Assemblywoman Michelle Fiore, states that except in special cases, the federal government “shall not own rights to use land or water” and the state would take over management of most public land in Nevada. Bundy and his supporters plan to attend a hearing next week in Carson City when the bill will go before committee, according to the Associated Press. But Assemblyman John Ellison, R-Elko, despite signing on initially as a co-sponsor, said he could no longer support it after a more thorough review. “That’s a bad bill,” he said. Sen. Pete Goicoechea, R-Eureka, agreed. “The intent is fine but the language in the bill is horrible,” he said, adding that he thought it would be harmful to the ranching industry. The bill specifies that the State Land Registrar would sell grazing permits and require county commissions to tax profits from resource use. Elko County Commissioner Demar Dahl said AB 408 takes the opposite approach of Senate Joint Resolution 1, a measure he’s backed, which asks Congress to transfer an initial 7.2 million acres to the state and opens up more land transfers in subsequent phases...more

American billionaires on welfare: Cliven Bundy, Ted Turner and other ranchers stealing your tax dollars

The typical, strident, left-wing attack on federal lands ranching, with the added hook of listing 12 "billionaires" who graze on federal land.  Published in Salon, here is the list:

Some of America’s biggest welfare ranchers:

David and Charles Koch (Koch Industries)
The brothers hold a half-dozen grazing permits on public land in Montana to go with its 300,000-acre Matador Ranch there. The brothers are tied for fourth place on Forbes 2014 400 Richest People in America list (net worth: $ 42 billion each). The Koch family ($ 89 billion) is #2 on Forbes Richest Families list; Koch Industries is #2 on Forbes America’s Largest Private Companies list, ($ 115 billion in sales).

J.R. Simplot Corp.
The largest U.S. public lands ranching entity (with an estimated 2 to 3 million acres of allotments in CA, ID, NV, OR and UT) is #63 on Forbes 2014 list of America’s Largest Private Companies ($ 5.8 billion in sales). In 2014, the family was #29 on Forbes list of America’s Richest Families (net worth: $ 8 billion).
Bruce McCaw (McCaw Cellular)

McCaw was #382 on Forbes 400 list of America’s Richest People in 2005 (net worth: $ 925 million). Through his 9 sprawling ranches, he controls a significant number of public grazing leases in ID and possibly NV. One of them (Camas Creek ranch) includes 272,000 acres of Federal grazing allotments in Idaho’s Camas Prairie. Grazing permitted to his other ranches could easily double or triple that to a million acres or more.

Barrick Gold
The Canadian mining company is one of the two largest public lands ranchers in NV, ranking 771st on Forbes Global 2000 list of the World’s Biggest Public Companies in 2014, (sales: $ 12.56 billion). Like many other large public lands ranchers, Barrick buys ranches to secure water rights.

Southern Nevada Water Authority (SNWA)
The supplier of drinking water to Las Vegas is a large NV public lands rancher with an estimated 1 million acres of public grazing allotments. Like Barrick Gold, it, buys up private ranches to gain their water rights.

W. Barron Hilton (Hilton Hotels)
The hotel heir dropped off Forbes Billionaires list (ranked #459 in 2011) as well as its list of the 400 Richest Americans (#144 in 2010), with a net worth of $ 2.5 billion. He died in 2013.
Though records are hard to pin down, Hilton’s heirs inherited a ranching operation in the CA-NV border area, which has been known to have vast public lands grazing allotments permitted to it.

Mary Hewlett-Jaffe (Hewlett-Packard)
Jaffe holds the largest BLM public lands grazing permit in central ID and is among the top 15 public lands ranchers in the state (estimated at under 200,000 acres that are said to be in extremely degraded condition, according to sources).

James Barta (Sav-Rx.com)
Barta is not on any Forbes rich lists, but owns one of the largest cattle ranching operations in the U.S., according to his attorneys. Barta holds grazing permits to nearly 900,000 acres of public grazing allotments in connection with two properties: White Horse Ranch (in OR) and Soldier Meadows (in NV). Barta may have additional NV grazing leases through two other ranches in NV, according to Jon Marvel, founder of Western Watersheds Project.

T. Wright Dickinson
Though not on any Forbes list, the Dickinson family is a large public lands rancher, with  grazing permits estimated at more than a half million acres of CO, UT and WY public lands under its LLC, Vermillion Ranches. Dickinson is a former County commissioner and proponent of county efforts to gain control of federal lands, according to the Denver Post.

Stan Kroenke (Kroenke Group) & Ann Walton Kroenke (Walmart)
With just two of his ranches (in MT and WY) totaling 664,000 acres (not including public grazing allotments), Kroenke is one of the ten top land owners in the U.S. In 2014, he ranked #89 on Forbes list of the 400 Richest Americans, #247 on its Billionaires list, and #5 on its list of Richest American Sports Team Owners (net worth: $ 5.8 billion). His wife, Ann Walton Kroenke (net worth: $ 5.6 billion), was #261 on Forbes Billionaires list and #11 on its list of America’s Richest Women.

Family of Robert Earl Holding (Sinclair Oil and hotels)
Forbes ranks the family #87 on its 2014 list of America’s Richest Families (net worth: $ 2.7 billion). With 400,000 acres of land, the family is the 19th largest private land owner in the US, according to the 2014 Land Report 100. This includes land that Forbes reported “may be the largest ranching operation in the Rocky Mountains.” Public grazing leases are associated with some of the family’s WY and possibly MT holdings, according to Jon Marvel, founder of Western Watersheds.

Ted Turner
He’s the second largest U.S. land owner (2 million acres in 6 states), is estimated to hold grazing leases in MT and NM (estimated at as much as 300,000 acres), and owns the world’s largest bison herd. Forbes ranked him #296 on its 2014 list of the 400 Richest Americans and #818 on its global Billionaires list (net worth: $ 2.2 billion).

Senate makes statement on WOTUS

The Senate made a strong statement against the Environmental Protection Agency’s proposed waters of the U.S. definition by approving an amendment as part of its budget resolution. Nearly reaching the 60 vote threshold, a total of 59 senators voted in favor of the amendment which will “establish bright lines for Federal jurisdiction, and to create clear and unambiguous exemptions for features” the EPA administrator or Army Corps of Engineers secretary claims they are not seeking to regulate. “The Administration claims it has no intention of using this rule to regulate things like drainage ditches and isolated ponds. My amendment simply holds the Administration to their word. This will give our farmers, ranchers and small business owners the certainty and peace of mind they deserve,” said Sen. Johan Barrasso (R., Wyo.) who introduced the amendment. Barrasso’s amendment #347 establishes a spending-neutral reserve fund to ensure federal jurisdiction under the Clean Water Act is focused on water quality, which may include limiting federal jurisdiction based on certain criteria. The amendment specifically limits how the Environmental Protection Agency or the Army Corps of Engineers determine what is connected to the waters of the United States. It also prevents the agencies on making a determination based on the movement of birds, mammals and insects. It also prevents determinations based on the movement of water through the ground – or the movement of rain water, or snow melt, over the land outside of a channel. Finally it prohibits the Water Pollution Control Act from extending to things like puddles, isolated ponds, roadside ditches, and wastewater systems...more