Monday, August 31, 2015

A discussion on the federal lands livestock industry and it's future

I recently posted an excerpt from an excellent Op-Ed in the Wall Street Journal by Andy Rieber, but took exception to one small part. My comments were the following:

Unfortunately, the author then goes on to say AMPs would have resolved all this:

 Some BLM districts write “allotment management plans” with grazing permittees for precisely this purpose—to develop sustainable grazing systems and clarify standards so ranchers can be knowledgeable participants in the management of the range. But not at the BLM’s Battle Mountain District. Not only has staff there never bothered to develop an allotment management plan for Argenta and North Buffalo, they have categorically failed to form a working partnership with ranchers. Instead they chose to leave ranchers to muddle along without a sustainable grazing system or necessary range improvements, and then shut them down when (surprise) unmanaged grazing affects delicate stream banks. This BLM district was effectively setting the ranchers up to fail, instead of helping them to succeed.

Can't help but notice the condescending attitude towards ranchers. They can't be "knowledgeable participants" without an AMP and are just left to "muddle along" without a government plan aimed at "helping them to succeed." Ranchers are apparently incapable of designing a "sustainable grazing system" without direction from the government. 

Horse puckey.

Do you think its just a miracle that over 528 million acres of private land are successfully grazed by livestock?  Of course not.  We need less gov't planning, not more. 

I then received this interesting reply from Ms. Rieber:

Sorry Frank, you are miles off base. There is nothing in this piece that is remotely "condescending" to ranchers. I have basically devoted my career to working for this industry for a reason—namely the deep respect I have for the people in it and for the agricultural endeavor of raising cattle on the western ranges. If I thought ranchers were idiots, I would not be contracting with the Public Lands Council, State Cattlemen's affiliate organizations, and individual ranchers to keep them out on the public land. Nor, as you imply, do I anywhere state that AMPs are the be-all-end-all solution to the problems ranchers face with the BLM. In many ways, the BLM is a profoundly broken agency. It has come adrift from its mission as a "multiple use" agency, and is now largely staffed with wildlife biologists and ecologists who know nothing (and care nothing) for range management. Much must be done to bring this agency back into line with the mission that it was originally intended to serve. That said, cooperatively writing effective AMPs is one small but critical piece of this process. Why? Several reasons. First, AMPS (when done correctly) empower ranchers to work together with the agency to develop a plan that works equally well for land and cattle. Since ranchers are leasing from the federal government, it is inevitable that the government will have requirements and standards. So, either the ranchers can be locked out of the management process (as they were in Battle Mountain), or, as it should be, they can jointly develop a plan with the BLM that accommodates all needs. Both sides have important information to bring to the table. But if the ranchers don't know what the BLM's ecological goals and objectives are, they are powerless to apply the most effective management practices. Then they get kicked off. That's what we're trying to avoid here.

Of course, you claim that "we need less government planning, not more," I suppose implying that if the BLM just leaves ranchers alone, all will be well. There are two problems with you view. First, it is wildly unrealistic. Public lands ranchers lease from the federal government. Barring a highly unlikely victory for the states seeking transfer of federal lands to state ownership, this situation will not change. As you well know, FLPMA and other laws require the BLM to set rangeland health standards and to manage the land for ecological health as well as natural resource use. Do you honestly think that by wishing this away, it will be so? Hardly. We must work within the existing laws, or, if you like, seek to change those laws. (If you begin a campaign to repeal FLPMA, let me know how that goes.) One of the most disturbing problems is that the laws and regulations in place often support fair, cooperative management between the BLM and permittees, but the agency has made a practice of ignoring the law. If Battle Mountain had been following the grazing regs, they would never had been able to steamroll the ranchers. What we should be doing, therefore, is to insist that the agencies follow the laws that govern them (by litigating, if necessary), and make sure that they write regulations that do not overstep the agencies' authority. By contrast, demanding "less government planning" will do nothing to help ranchers. Worse, in the end, such vague and unrealistic demands will make the very valid complaints of ranchers cease to be taken seriously.

Second, you need to do a reality check with your implied claim that all ranchers are great stewards, and therefore don't need to change or improve what they're doing. Look, I work with a lot of ranchers that are outstanding stewards. These ranchers understand deferred rest-rotation, monitoring, riparian grazing, and many other grazing techniques that have developed over that last several decades. The land they manage, both public and private, is showcase material. I have also seen some allotments that are pretty well hammered (not just my opinion, but the opinion of other ranchers). I strongly believe that many ranchers are, or would like to be, good stewards. But if we're going to be honest with ourselves, Frank, we're going to have to acknowledge that some ranchers need some help improving. Hiding from this fact is a gross disservice to ranchers—the ones who know least about good stewardship practices are going to be the first ones to be driven out of business. I want these people to stay in business. Now, if the system weren't broken, the BLM would be able to collaborate with ranchers to help develop grazing systems that would serve both the agency and the ranchers. But of course, they're not doing this, at least not without first precipitating a crisis like the one the Battle Mountain ranchers went through. One of the points of my Op-Ed was to bring to light the fact that the BLM is abrogating this very important duty.

It may be interesting for you to note that this Op-Ed was hugely appreciated throughout the public lands ranching community: from the Battle Mountain ranch families, to the Nevada Cattlemen's Association, to the Public Lands Council, to the Humboldt County Commission. No one remotely detected the "condescension" you found. Through fighting many battles with the public agencies, these people and organizations also understand that being effective requires making realistic, legally defensible demands, not vague fist-shaking. While I sincerely appreciate your passion for defending ranchers and the industry, as well as your frustration with the BLM, I am convinced that your prescription is not the way forward.

Sincere regards,

Andy Rieber

First, anyone who reads this blog knows my preference is for private property and free markets, not federal property and a command-and-control regulatory structure.  My comments on gov't planning were aimed in that sense and had nothing to do with individual producers.  I would encourage everyone to read The Best Laid Plans by Randal O'Toole for a tour de force of government planning.

The WSJ described Ms. Rieber as a "writer in Oregon" so I was unaware of her involvement with industry, which clarifies a lot for me, plus she raises some really interesting issues that are worth pondering by the federal lands livestock industry.

I understand and appreciate where Ms. Rieber is coming from because I spent many years (30+) in the exact same position she is in:  right in the middle between the federal alltoment owners and the federal agencies, trying to maintain credibility in both camps and working within the existing statutes and regs to bring about reasonable solutions.

And Ms. Rieber is correct that she did not say AMPs would have resolved all this, although it was the first and primary solution she brought forward.

Many will recall that AMPs did not apply to private land until FLPMA passed in 1976.  That upset many and as a legislative assistant to U.S. Senator Pete Domenici I worked with industry and others to successfully amend FLPMA in 1978 to include the "consultation, cooperation and coordination with the lessees, permittees, and landowners involved" language.  I then worked with the State Director of BLM and the Regional Forester to have each sign an MOU laying out how they would comply with that section of the law.  Then as the NM Secretary of Agiculture I worked with both agencies in implementing those MOUs.

So I know all about AMPs and Ms. Rieber is correct in that they can be a shield for the allotment owner.  However, we now find they can also be a signed contract that is a trap leading to their demise.

Ms. Rieber raised the question about the way forward.  I do that by first reviewing the past.  And there I find that after all those years of working with ranchers, the federal agencies, colleagues in other states and other interested parties, all within the confines of existing statutes and regs, there are fewer ranching families and a lesser number of livestock today than when I and my colleagues started.  The trend downward was slower in some administrations than others, but still downward.  Every time there was a new land use or resource management plan ranching would suffer.  Or a new endangered species would be found, critical habitat designated and livestock grazing would take a hit.  A new Wilderness Area or Wild & Scenic River would be designated by Congress, or the President would designate a National Monument, all to the detriment of the ranching community.  The list is almost endless.

Given the above, I must say I see that is our future too, or lack thereof, if we limit ourselves to working within the confines of existing statutes and regs.  Why would anything change? As long as these lands are nationalized, they are under political rule and we've all seen where that has led.  And that politicized management will continue until these lands are transferred out of federal ownership.  

I see a need for both approaches.  In the interim allotment owners must work with folks like Rieber to survive through the short-run.  Let's get as many of those permits renewed as possible.  In the long-run, let's all recognize that continued nationalization of these lands will be to the detriment of the people and the environment.  Visit the American Lands Council to see how change can be brought about.

I support both approaches, and hope that Ms. Rieber will also come to see the value in both.

Mount McKinley Renamed Denali Ahead of Obama's Visit

North America's highest mountain is no longer named Mount McKinley. Interior Secretary Sally Jewell signed an order Aug. 28 changing its name to Denali, a local Athabascan name for the mountain, which is located in Denali National Park and Preserve, Alaska. President Obama is scheduled to visit Anchorage, Alaska, on Aug. 31 in a visit partly intended to call attention to the effects of climate change on the region...more

BLM launches a native-seeds strategy for damaged landscapes

From the air, Steve Ellis could tell the Soda Fire burned hot. Flying thousands of feet above large swaths of burned sagebrush steppe last Sunday, Ellis, deputy director of the Bureau of Land Management, searched the Idaho landscape for islands of vegetation that might have survived the more than 283,000-acre blaze. He saw none. The conversation in the aircraft quickly turned to landscape rehabilitation. “How are we going to seed this? When are we going to get in there?” he asked his colleagues. Already, crews have been deployed, hoping to get an early start on planting natives before invasive weeds, like cheatgrass and medusahead, get a foothold. Such post-fire rehabilitation and restoration is an uphill battle for land managers and conservation organizations in the West. Bigger and longer fires make it difficult for crews to take advantage of small planting windows, inflate seed prices and increase demand for personnel and equipment. As a result, many burned areas aren’t replanted, leading to severe post-fire soil erosion. But, the federal government is hoping to change that with their new National Seed Strategy for Rehabilitation and Restoration...more

Who really has rights to Nevada land?

The midday sun hangs high in the Amargosa Valley sky as Cuban exile turned Las Vegas pastor Victor Fuentes treks along a path near his 40-acre property. The meandering trail follows a narrow spring-fed stream, alternating between patches of parched dirt and thick clumps of salt grass. The stream, Fuentes says, used to be his. “We needed that water to practice our faith,” he says. Ten years after coming to this wide-open vista, he can still remember how it looked the first time he saw it. Green. Alive with flowers and trees. Peaceful ­— the type of place he fled Cuba for. He bought it with donations from the churchgoers, named it “Patch of Heaven” and invited church summer camps to the property for campfire cookouts and singalongs as well as Bible studies and river baptisms. “In nature, that’s how we were created,” Fuentes says. “When God wants to talk to you, he wants no distractions. This was a refuge for humans.” But the place Fuentes is describing doesn’t exist anymore. After half an hour’s walk, Fuentes arrives at an earthen berm that rises from the banks of the cattail-clogged stream, bending the water’s flow away from Fuentes’ property. On his side of the berm, a sloping wash lined with the husks of withered plants is carved into the dusty terrain. On the other is the federal government, which says it needed to divert the water to protect a fragile ecosystem home to 26 endangered species, including the 3-inch-long Ash Meadows speckled dace, a grayish-green fish found only here, in a network of spring-fed creeks surrounded by the Mojave Desert. In that one stream, all of Nevada’s complicated and contradictory relationships to public land is reflected. And the legal conflict between Fuentes and the government hinges on fundamental questions. What are the limits of religious rights? Should the federal government or private citizens decide how land should be used? How do we allocate water when there isn’t enough to go around? In 2012, Fuentes filed suit against the federal government, alleging an unjust taking of private property by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, which manages the 36-square-mile Ash Meadows National Wildlife Refuge that surrounds his land on all sides. The suit also seeks compensation for flood damages and claims Fuentes’ First Amendment religious protections were violated...more

Ranchers face loss of livestock, livelihoods in Washington fires

The burned carcasses blend into the scorched landscape, just more black and ash among the haunting outline of trees. “There she is,” rancher Doug Grumbach says, pointing up the steep slope near his ranch. “It looks like she was trying to run and froze in that mode.” The cow is now obvious: A perfectly shaped head, a body covered in skin that’s become cured leather – taut and solid like a drumhead. She’s upright, wedged between two burned trees, ribs exposed, a flurry of maggots working furiously. Her calf lies in a heap nearby. Grumbach is silent. He rubs his jaw and points to another carcass farther up the hill on the grazing land in the Colville National Forest, just south of the Canadian border. The land recently burned in the Stickpin fire. Grumbach, like cattle ranchers across fire-ravaged north-central Washington, isn’t sure of his total losses. The devastation includes not only body counts but hundreds of miles of fence, grazing land and water sources on his family’s fourth-generation ranch...more

Tribe Takes Lead in Saving Reindeer Herd in Rocky Mountains

SALMON, Idaho — A Native American tribe in Idaho has been given the task of creating a plan for saving a tiny band of wild reindeer from extinction in a far corner of the northern Rocky Mountains, straddling the border of the United States and Canada, American wildlife officials said. A population of woodland caribou now numbering just 14 in the remote Selkirk Mountains has been at the center of a protracted fight among conservationists, the Fish and Wildlife Service and groups promoting recreational use and logging in the creatures’ alpine habitat. First listed as an endangered species in 1984, they are the only wild reindeer of their kind left in the Lower 48 states, though they are close cousins of caribou that roam northern Alaska in large herds. Under a rare agreement with the Fish and Wildlife Service, the Kootenai Tribe of northern Idaho will receive $35,000 to create an updated recovery plan for the Selkirk caribou, which rely on old-growth forests in elevations above 4,000 feet for a winter diet of lichens. Recovery measures could include restoration of habitat fragmented by logging, wildfires and snowmobile trails, said Kim Garner, chief of recovery for the Fish and Wildlife Service in Boise...more

Drones could change how we cultivate, grow food

Drones, or unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), and their integration with other technologies and management tools are stimulating a new agricultural revolution with opportunities not only for farmers and others involved with agricultural production, but educators, food processors, markets, and consumers. The Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International, the trade group that represents producers and users of drones and other robotic equipment, predicts that 80 percent of the commercial market for drones will eventually be for agricultural uses. Once the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) establishes guidelines for commercial use, the drone industry expects more than 100,000 jobs to be created and nearly half a billion in tax revenue to be generated collectively by 2025 - much of it from agriculture. Drones – which can be bought for $700 up to $20,000 and beyond – are equipped with infrared cameras, sensors, and other technology controlled by a pilot on the ground. The hovering aircraft can collect data that identifies insect problems, water issues, assesses crop yields, and even tracks down cattle that have wandered off. Growers can use UAVs to tailor the use of pesticides, herbicides, fertilizer, and other applications based on how much is needed at a specific point in a field – a process known as precision agriculture. This can save the grower money from unnecessarily overusing resources while at the same time reducing the amount of runoff that could flow into nearby rivers and streams. Furthermore, the aircraft can assist farmers to help with better planting and crop rotation strategies, and provide a higher degree of all-around knowledge of how crops progress day-to-day in different parts of a field. “The business is showing a rapid, steady, and significant interest from all around the world, not just in California,” said Ashutosh Natraj, co-founder of Vine Rangers in Santa Ynez, Calif. His company is a precision agriculture startup using drones and ground robots to gather data on vineyard crops...more

Decline in Texas cattle auctions an expected development

Following multiple years of drought and serious culling of Texas cattle herds, it should come as no surprise that the number of cattle auction markets has declined as the result of consolidation and closures. According to recent research from Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service, not only are the number of cattle auction markets down, chances are good they may not increase to pre-drought numbers in the foreseeable future. But Texas AgriLife Extension Service Livestock Specialist Dr. Joe Paschal, who has been serving 37 counties in South Texas for over 30 years from the Texas A&M Research and Extension Center in Corpus Christi, is not worried about the decline and says a viable system of live cattle auction markets will always be available across the state...more

Templeton Livestock Market a casualty of change

For 14 years, Randy and Beth Baxley ran the Templeton Livestock Market, a sales yard that united buyers and sellers for live auctions. Last October the Baxleys sold their last cow, and Templeton Livestock Market, one of the last vestiges of the cattle ranching market on the Central Coast, shut its doors. The closure had little to do with the drought, or low inventory of cattle. The landowner wouldn’t renew the lease, opting to sell the property to a housing developer. “It’s a sad thing. If we had owned the property the livestock market was on, we’d still be there,” Beth Baxley said. The Baxleys are just two sales yard operators forced to close their doors as the cattle ranching market continues to decline. More than 40 years ago, livestock markets dotted California in Santa Rosa, Petaluma, Dixon and Salinas. Now just 23 sales yards remain statewide...more

Ranch Radio Song Of The Day #1478

Its Swingin' Monday and here's Hank Thompson to let us know he's not all that fond of The Great Society.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Cowgirl Sass & Savvy

Ranching sign language 

 by Julie Carter

The rancher’s wife stands at the gate waiting for him to make up his mind which direction he is going to go with the small herd of cattle he’s bringing to the pens.  She sees him look at the cattle that are trotting a little faster than he’d like and then glance at her, but he says nothing.

With long established telepathy, she knows by watching him she’s got the wrong gate open even though it’s the one he told her to have ready. She slams her gate and runs as fast as boots, spurs and chaps will let her to the other gate that is now the one that needs opened. 

The language that is spoken and more often not spoken at the ranch requires visual skills as well as interpretive ones. Some days the meaning comes through loud and clear without words.

Cattle and horses speak to their owners through patterns and natural instincts.  A mother cow will eventually give away the location of her hidden new baby if you just quietly watch her trying to not give it away. She will look every which way but the right one until at one point, she’ll glance the direction of her calf. 

A baby calf, falling behind the herd while you are driving them, will get a look in his eye that reads in the next second you are going to see him with his tail curled up over his back, eyes glazed over, and leaving to go back to where he came from before you bothered him. By instinct, he will return to the last place he suckled his momma and wait for her return.

A horse’s ears will perk up to attention while you ride through the brush and you can bet the bank he’s heard, seen or smelled something you haven’t.  If the rider will pay attention, a horse will find more cattle in the brush than a rider will ever see on his own.

Ranch husband and wife communications, while pretty much the same across the land, take on a bit more animation and sometimes humor. The “funny” often doesn’t arrive until later, and sometimes much later, like years later, when the story is retold.

While she’s chunking rocks at the bulls to get them through the gate and he’s hollering it’s the wrong gate, or wrong cattle or wrong something, the next rock chunking usually is directly at him. Not hard to interpret that.

A time-proven cowboy trick is to loudly give the wife instruction that she doesn’t need, but that someone else within hearing does. Rather than offend the “help” that he won’t scold, he makes her look less than capable with his admonitions to her in hopes the one who needs to hear it will. It usually fails in its intended mission and the chill in the air at the ranch house could last for days. A can of Spam served on a plate, still in the can mind you, is a not so subtle hint of the relationship infraction.

A nod, a whistle, a wave or a shake of his head speaks an entire language to his partner who most often is also the cook.  Better judgment on his part is not always in use when communicating his thoughts. He knows that there is fine line between making a point and her quitting him all together.

Sometimes though, he just has to ask, “You mean the marriage license didn’t include ‘for better or worse’ and for mind reading?”

Julie, a fair hand at reading cowboy sign language and dishing out a bit of it herself, can be reached for comment at

The (bleep) Speech

Saving our culture
The (bleep) Speech
Sermon on the Turf
By Stephen L. Wilmeth

            Ladies be seated under the shade provided… Gentlemen you may leave your hats on under this tortuous sun. You will be forgiven any breach of western etiquette for this important occasion.
            The Speech
            Ladies and Gentlemen, all this stuff you hear about American ranchers not wanting fight for their heritage and way of life is (bleep). All real Westerners love the clash of engagement as they love the land on which they stake their existence. When you were kids, you all admired the winning roper, the fastest horse, the most innovative turf manager, and the senior matron that balanced the world outside with the family’s needs inside. Ranchers love the truth and will not tolerate a fa├žade of chicanery. Ranchers have always played to win. That is why the industry has not fallen into the archives of past history. The very thought of losing this land is unacceptable. This battle for our existence is the most significant competition you will ever face. It brings out all that is good and discards all that is tentative and fleeting.
            You are not all going to survive this fight. Too many of you right here today will not survive to pass this unique heritage to your heirs. Every man should be terrified of that fate. If you are not saddened, you are a (bleep) charlatan. The hero among you is the individual who will strive to secure real sustainability that has no bearing on the political (bleep) that is being coerced upon the American public as if it was fact. The real rancher among you shall never let your fear of failure overpower your honor, your sense of duty to your surroundings, and your God given stewardship.
            All through this nation, there exists growing hordes of (bleep) non-producers riding the back of the system. Those citizens are being reassured and patronized on the basis of political gain for the ruling elite that have created a corrupted regulatory structure that is in the process of bursting at the seams. It threatens every one of us. It is also the primary enemy of our way of life.
            We are a culture of brothers. We must live, eat, sleep, and stand united. All the real hero stuff is not patterned from superhero characters on some screen. Every single one of us plays a vital role. Don’t ever think that your job is unimportant. It is perhaps the most basic and fundamental positive influence of man on this earth. The bilious (bleep) who write green fiction to the contrary don’t know any more about the real relationship with the creation than they do about (bleep).
            If we didn’t have governance predicated on growing tyranny, we are standing at the edge of the real green frontier. We have the fantastic technology growing from private industry that is not connected to the false funding that makes (bleep) out of institutions of higher learning. We have youth that can bridge the electronic world with that of cow dust and saddle leather. We have equipment that offers speed, efficiency, and resource application that could not be fathomed even a decade ago. We stand on the verge of a turf revolution like the world has never seen if we were turned loose to pursue the matter of life, liberty and enjoyment of property the Founders envisioned.
            Some of you are wondering if you can perform in the public arena of our future. Don’t worry about that. Every one of you has witnessed neighbors and colleagues stand and face the wrath. There was initial hesitation and resistance, but the quivering voices have become steady and more forceful. The opinions and “feelings” have become statements of fact and law, and the fear of failure has become disdain and hatred for the false accusations and seedy agenda intentions hurled in your direction.
            Matters from the heart and the defense of life’s work are never false pretenses.
            Survival, though, is a bloody business. The fabricated environmental movement is the enemy. Each of you must realize you are the real environmental movement. No position from this point forward will simply be “held”. We must advance constantly and there must be no mention of holding anything unless it is the enemy’s (bleep). In fact, we must hold him by the (bleep) while we kick him in the (bleep), twist his (bleep) and kicking the living (bleep) out of him all the time. Our plan must be to advance and to keep advancing until our culture is on safer ground from these (bleep) and our heritage is preserved.
            There will be complaints that you are radical and are pushing too hard. Don’t give a (bleep) about that accusation. Your very lives are the focus of this effort. Pushing hard means fewer casualties among your ranks. It means more future for your children and your ranges. It also means more intense efforts can result and be directed toward the real issue, the health of our lands, the future of our industry, and the truth of the real environmental movement. Ranchers don’t surrender.
Every one of you has a particular niche, a gift to offer. We need men like (you add the name) who rose in the public forum at NMSU defending his operation from the introduction of the false endangered species, the Mexican gray wolf. We want (you add the name) to come forward again and defend her children from the ravages of corruption of public education that teaches falsehoods and harmful societal conformity. We want true Westerners that will give their lives to their Creator and to the way of life he granted us!
            Don’t forget, we don’t have a designated leader. We are an army of individuals each commanding his or her piece of the greater natural, western homeland. We are cornerstone citizens who work hard to defend our investments and our way of life. We ask for no quarter except the freedom to accomplish our tasks.
            Verbal history is important to our community. What will your descendent 100 years from now ask when he or she is sitting on a parent’s knee? The answer will be predicated on their earthly surroundings. If there is urban squalor filled with filth and human debris, the answer will be secular, morbid, and hopeless. If there is peace, a full larder, and a truly healthy landscape, the answer will be more personal.
            “Son, your great-great-great-granddaddy with the rest of that industrious band of sons of the American West kicked some serious (bleep),” the parent will say. “Those (bleep) truly saved the spirit and the intent of the Constitution and your way of life.”
            All right, you people, you know what your duty is. Gentlemen, take your ladies and proceed to the corners of your precious lands and redouble your efforts. Your efforts and your rewards will be worthwhile. More importantly, they will save this great nation.
That is all … you are dismissed.

            Stephen L. Wilmeth is a rancher from southern New Mexico. “If there is a hint of resemblance to another battle speech in history, it was fully intended … I am as guilty as (hell)!”

Baxter Black: Try the team roping approach

I happened to be at the National Finals Rodeo in 1988 when Leo Camarillo and partner roped their steer in five seconds flat! It ranked in my mind with John Alden pitoning up Plymouth Rock or Neil Armstrong making angels in the moon dust! I was there when history was being made! It didn't matter that Leo's time only took third in the go-round.

I have watched team roping evolve. Thirty years ago it was called team tying.

In team tying both the header and the heeler were tied hard and fast. The header roped the horns and rode off to the west. The heeler would rope the hind legs, fall back to his left and head south. They'd form a "V" with the steer at the northern most point. The steer would flop to the ground then the header would leap off, brandishing a piggin' string and tie the steer's heels with a square knot...Time!

Ron said Vern had come from Squaw Gap to the ropin' north of Medora, ND. He entered up in the team tying. When his turn came he and his partner bailed outta the box and built to the steer. Halfway across the arena Vern cast his loop. Now it should be noted for followers of modern rodeo, neither Vern nor his horse, Whittier, were professional cowboys, they just did it for a living! Both right off the ranch, where they'd be back on duty the next morning.

His rope sailed out and settled round the steer's horns. Vern turned the corner and the slack snapped outta the line like a barkin' dog hittin' the end of the chain!

Then his good ol' pony stuck his nose in the dirt and commenced to bawl and pitch! Tipparary had nothin' on him. He wallowed across the arena and up the grandstand fence, boggin' and firin', bellerin' and buckin', generally throwin' a fit and draggin' that steer behind him!...

Big Alice vs Etta Clark

by Marshall Trimble

 Competition between madams was especially keen in the wild and wicked west Texas town of El Paso where Redheaded Etta “Grasshopper” Clark and “Big Alice” Abbott operated competitive bawdy houses on opposite sides of Utah Street. Big Alice advertised herself as “The Best  Housekeeper in the USA.”

A fight broke out between the two on the evening of April 18th, 1886 over Bessie Colvin, the beautiful, busty star attraction at Big Alice’s house and one most popular girls in the red light district.  Big Alice claimed Bessie owed her some money for “back rent” and Bessie insisted she didn’t.  After an argument that featured language colorful enough to make a muleskinner blush, Bessie pranced across the street to Grasshopper’s place saying to all who would listen that “prime cut will soon be found across the street.”

This sent Big Alice storming across the street where she proceeded to pound loudly on her neighbor’s door.  When Etta opened it a crack, Big Alice, using all her 230 pounds of strength, jerked the door off its hinges, smashing Grasshopper’s face in the process.  When Grasshopper grabbed a brass gas lighter for a weapon, Big Alice’s huge fist landed a haymaker on her bony nose.

Then Big Alice grabbed Bessie and commenced to drag her out of Grasshopper’s establishment.  At this point, Grasshopper pulled a Colt .45 and aimed it at Big Alice and fired.  A huge cloud of white gun smoke shrouded the room and when it cleared, Big Alice looked down and saw blood streaming between her legs. Horrified, she grabbed her crotch and began screaming “My God, I’ve been shot!”

She then staggered into the street and collapsed. Grasshopper fired off another round but missed.

Three of her “boarders” rushed out and drug Big Alice into the house...

Ranch Radio Song Of The Day #1477

Bill Carlisle's recording of Shine Your Light To Others is our gospel tune today.  The tune was written by Cliff Carlisle and recorded by Bill in 1947 for the King record label.  You'll find the song on his Cattle CD Tramp On The Street

Friday, August 28, 2015

Santa Fe climate group seeking fee to reduce greenhouse gases

A local non-profit group looking to reduce greenhouse gases has started a petition drive aimed at swaying the city and county of Santa Fe to impose a $2 per month impact fee to fund initiatives to reduce carbon and methane emissions. Robb Hirsch, founder and executive director of Santa Fe’s Climate Change Leadership Institute, says more than 1,000 people have already signed the online petition that calls for the city and county “to adopt a reasonable environmental impact fee to support green community empowerment initiatives.” “It’s important to work with the community to make sure this is wanted, which it is, and make sure this is coming as a groundswell of support from the community,” said Hirsch, who hopes to present the petition to the City Council in October. Asked how the impact fee might be imposed, Hirsch said probably the most practical way would be a flat fee on water utility bills, coupled with an additional amount based on water usage as part of an effort to reduce water consumption. Another method of imposing the fee might be through property taxes, basing it on a sliding scale so higher valued properties would pay more, but that could be harder to achieve, he said. Money generated from the impact fee could be used to fund initiatives to help offset the effects of climate change. Those could include solar installations, community gardens, home weatherization programs, low energy loans to help residents transition to renewable energy, and education programs informing people how they can reduce their carbon footprint...more

EPA imposes water rule in all states except those that sued

A defiant Environmental Protection Agency on Friday put into effect controversial new water regulations, despite a federal judge's decision to place a temporary hold on the rule for fear it would harm states. The EPA says it is interpreting Thursday's injunction as applying only to the states that sued in the North Dakota district court, according to a spokeswoman. The Clean Water Rule, also known as the Waters of the U.S. rule, goes into effect Friday as planned, except in the 13 states that filed the North Dakota lawsuit. "The Clean Water Rule is fundamental to protecting and restoring the nation's water resources that are vital for our health, environment and economy," said Melissa Harrison, a spokeswoman for the agency. She says the EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers "have been preparing to implement the rule on the effective date of Aug. 28." The rule increases EPA jurisdiction over ditches, tributaries and other small waterways, making farmers, ranchers and other land developers subject to federal enforcement actions under the Clean Water Act. The circuit court's temporary hold on implementation of the water rule applies only in Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Idaho, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wyoming, according to the EPA. All remaining 37 states will become subject to the new rule Friday. "In all other respects, the rule is effective on Aug. 28," Harrison says...more

President must experience 'real' Alaska through its people


Alaska has benefited from many Presidential visits, and it’s always good to have the national spotlight shine on us. President Ronald Reagan’s visits were particularly memorable, given his keen appreciation for Alaska’s vast natural resources and understanding of the federal government’s history of locking up those resources by taking Alaska lands.

“It’s absolutely ridiculous,” President Reagan said in a 1979 campaign stop, bemoaning federal land-grabs. “It’s gotten to the point where a tourist who comes up here won’t even be able to see this land.” In 1983 while serving as President, he spoke stirringly of the importance of Alaska’s natural resources during a visit.

“Your state is a treasure trove of resources vital to our economy and to the well-being of every American,” he said.

President Reagan, a former western governor, understood Alaska.

I know that President Obama — whose upcoming visit is important for us all — is from a different party and has vastly different beliefs about how to grow the economy and the role of the federal government in our lives.

And I believe that many of his administration’s actions — including the consistent usurpation of Congress’ powers through issuing executive orders and locking up huge swaths of energy-rich Alaska land — are very detrimental to our country’s and Alaska’s economy.

However, there’s something I’m reminded of every day while representing Alaska in the U.S. Senate: Most Alaskans’ hopes and dreams transcend political ideologies. We all want what’s best for our families and communities now and for generations to come. We all want to live in a country that is teeming with opportunity, available to us all.

But in Alaska, a land of extraordinary potential, we face a unique problem, one that I hope President Obama recognizes during his visit. In order to make full use of our opportunities, we need to be seen not as symbols or abstractions, but as individuals. With real problems, real needs, real hopes and wishes, living in real cities and towns and rural communities — real people living in a real state.
For too long and by too many Outside, Alaska hasn’t been treated as a place in and of its own. It’s been a battleground and a playground, over-romanticized and underappreciated.

When the President visits, I hope that he is able to see Alaska not as a snow globe — something to put on a shelf and shaken for a feel-good moment — but as a place described by the drafters of our Constitution as “a homeland filled with opportunities for living, a land where you can worship and pray, a country where ambitions will be bright and real, an Alaska that will grow with you as you grow.”

Dan Sullivan is a Republican representing Alaska in the U.S. Senate.

Good luck with that Senator.

Your state is about to be used as a prop for Obama's global warming/climate change agenda. His eyes are on Paris, not Anchorage.

EPA releases more docs - Sediment a "long term" concern in Colorado mine spill's wake

Environmental officials said Thursday their long-term concern after the 3 million-gallon Gold King Mine spill centers around the metallic sediment left in its wake. Specifically, the Environmental Protection Agency says it is worried about the potential stirring up of sediment during "high-water events" and the sludge's effect on people who are continually recreating for long periods — several weeks — of time. The EPA mentioned the concerns as part of a data release accompanying 77 pages of documents chronicling the minutes and hours before and after the agency-triggered spill. The Aug. 5 disaster sent yellow-orange sludge through three states and two American Indian tribes, prompting emergency declarations and leaving communities along hundreds of river miles angry.  The EPA says data, collected over the past two weeks, shows surface water metal levels at 24 sampling locations along the watershed below the spill are "trending toward pre-event conditions." Metal levels in the sediment, the EPA says, are below the agency's recreational screening level. However, the EPA says it is not certain there are no health risks from the sediment. "Risks to humans from metals in the sediments are based upon the total exposure a person may have over a given period of time," David Gray, an EPA spokesman, said. "Exposure from sediments would be from hand-to-mouth exposures. We want to ensure that the concentration of metals in the sediments are sufficiently low enough to ensure that a recreational person will not be exposed to harmful levels of metals."...more

EPA: Waste pressure evidently never checked before Colorado mine spill

Dangerously high levels of water pressure behind the collapsed opening of the Gold King Mine were never checked by the Environmental Protection Agency, in part because of cost and time concerns. The revelations came Wednesday as the EPA released an internal review of a massive Aug. 5 blowout at the mine above Silverton. The report called an underestimation of the pressure the most significant factor leading to the spill. According to the report, had crews drilled into the mine's collapsed opening, as they had done at a nearby site, they "may have been able to discover the pressurized conditions that turned out to cause the blowout." According to the review, drilling into the collapsed opening would have been "quite costly" and taken more time because of soil and rock conditions at the site. The review says crews believed that because water was leaking from the Gold King and based on seep levels above its opening, a buildup of pressure was "less likely." Because of those signs, officials say, drilling appeared to be unnecessary. EPA supervisor Hays Griswold, who was at the scene of the blowout Aug. 5, told The Denver Post in an interview this month that conditions in the mine were worse than anticipated. "Nobody expected (the acid water backed up in the mine) to be that high," he said. The report says, however, that decreased wastewater flows from the mine, which had been leaching for years, could have offered a clue to the pressurization. Also, a June 2014 task order about work at the mine said "conditions may exist that could result in a blowout of the blockages." The inability to obtain an actual measurement of the mine water pressure behind the mine's blocked opening "seems to be a primary issue," according to the review. It went on to say that if the pressure information had been obtained, other steps could have been considered. It did not elaborate on what those steps could have been...more

Editorial - Wolf in sheep’s clothing?

Last week, a new era of uncertainty was ushered in along the Fort Lyon Canal when 14,600 acres of farmland was sold to Arkansas River Farms LLC.

The $45 million purchase has Southeastern Colorado agricultural and conservation interests on edge. Arkansas River Farms is an affiliate of C&A Companies and Resource Land Holdings. Water speculator and developer Karl Nyquist is a principal with C&A Companies, the parent company of GP Water, which has resources on the Lamar Canal and in 2011 announced plans to move water to various Front Range communities. While Arkansas River Farms apparently has indicated it will continue to use the Fort Lyon Canal water for agricultural purposes, the company bears watching.

Farming is a profitable business right now, so it makes financial sense for Arkansas River Farms to use the available water for farming and ranching. But the agricultural markets can be fickle, as prices and input costs rise and fall on a regular basis. If farming and ranching becomes less profitable down the road, there’s no telling what will happen with the valuable Fort Lyon Canal water.

The Fort Lyon Canal water has been targeted for moving northward since 2006, when Pure Cycle purchased the local land and proposed a pipeline to developments near Aurora. Nothing has come of the transfer idea yet, but the recent sale intensifies the threat to Arkansas Valley water resources because of the deep pockets of Nyquist and his affiliated real estate and development companies. 

It’s reasonable to assume that the long-term intentions of Arkansas River Farms may be to dry up land and move water. But the exportation of this critical agricultural water would be nothing short of devastating to the entire region. 

USDA spending another $211 million to protect sage grouse

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack on Thursday unveiled the government’s plan to spend $211 million over the next four years to protect the sage grouse and its habitat. Under what officials are calling the Sage Grouse Initiative 2.0, ranchers will receive additional financial assistance to improve conservation efforts on their land to benefit the bird and their agricultural operations, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). In a statement, Vilsack said these “efforts are also good for cattle, good for ranching operations, and good for America’s rural economy.” The government, along with private groups, have been working on conserving land to protect sage grouse since 2010. They have conserved 4.4 million acres, an area that's twice the size of Yellowstone National Park. Between 2010 and last year, the government spent $296.5 million on those projects. By the end of 2018, the USDA expects it will have spent $760 million along with private partners...more

Our enemies haven't been as successful as our leaders


Calling forest fires, the rising temperatures and our drought “an atmospheric fact of life” from one side of his mouth while ridiculing from the other side of his mouth those who propose dams and water storage is perhaps the most questionable thing I’ve personally heard California’s governor say.

Except for that little part where he thought policing agriculture more might be “good advice.”

...Equally unbelievable are state and federal regulators who continue to hide in their ivory cathedrals behind court documents and bureaucratic excuses while they flush trillions of gallons of water down rivers to the benefit of a handful of fish and the detriment of human beings.

The latest example of experimenting with fish flows during an historic drought comes out of Trinity County and the move by the Bureau of Reclamation to ostensibly help sick salmon in the Klamath River by draining Trinity Reservoir. This comes after tens of thousands of acre feet of water was flushed down the Stanislaus River to coax less than a dozen fish back to the Delta where they were likely consumed by predatory bass.


When fires turn extreme, get out of the way

By Rocky Barker

The past two weeks covering the Soda Fire in Southwest Idaho and the fires in North Idaho has given me renewed respect for the firefighters who protect our lives and national treasure.

Everyone appreciates how firefighters risk their lives, often working 24 hours straight or more to contain blazes that come earlier, last longer and burn hotter than ever. But fewer appreciate the tough decisions they and their bosses are forced to make when fire is burning across the landscape.

The loss of three firefighters in Washington shows once again how hard it is to escape fire in extreme conditions, when high winds create firestorms whose ferocity becomes unpredictable. Nonetheless, hundreds of people line up to volunteer to join the fight and to put their lives at risk.

Many of the people volunteering are frustrated that federal fire officials don’t just let them go out and get on the fire lines to protect the places they care about. Oregon ranchers expressed those views during the heat of the Soda Fire.

They wanted the flexibility to use their equipment and their own strategies to fight the blaze. Idaho ranchers, who joined rangeland fire protection associations under the auspices of the Idaho Department of Lands, don’t have that problem.

They work in concert with the Bureau of Land Management and other fire teams as a part of the larger effort and fire managers praised their efforts across Southern Idaho. They have been certified and trained; fire bosses know they can depend on these ranchers to follow orders and make good personal decisions to protect their lives and the lives of others.

Read more here:

Editorial - Incremental attacks on agriculture continue

A look at the predicament faced by some Yakima Valley, Wash., dairies should give pause to dairy operators across the nation.

More importantly, all farmers and ranchers would do well to closely monitor the emerging picture of how environmental special interests use the legal system to attack agriculture.

Last week, we commented on how the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency shrugged off transgressions in which it participates. The 3 million gallons of mine waste that EPA contractors dumped into rivers in Colorado, New Mexico and Utah was met with the comment that it’s really not that big a deal and that it’ll clear itself up.

Contrast that with the Yakima Valley, where five dairies have followed state-approved nutrient management plans only to be dragged into court by EPA-allied environmental groups to test a new legal theory. Under this theory, manure from cattle is industrial waste and, as such, it falls under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act.

These groups got a judge to fall for that argument — the first time since Congress passed the law nearly 40 years ago.

Should his ruling stand, all forms of havoc could be aimed at agriculture. If manure is industrial waste, it might follow under this warped interpretation that all sorts of byproducts could be similarly identified.

This is another example of incremental environmentalism, in which activists will never, ever say that enough is enough. They will always want more. This cycle will continue until the targeted business finds it impossible to continue.

This tactic was explained to us many years ago, and ever since we have seen it used against businesses, farmers, ranchers, developers, miners, the timber industry — any group unfortunate enough to find itself in the environmentalists’ cross hairs.

They also specialize in suing federal agencies such as the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management, which seem to spend as much time and money on defending themselves against lawsuits as they do managing federal lands and taking care of other important jobs, including fighting wildfires.

Armed with poorly written laws such as the Endangered Species Act and the RCRA, environmental groups march into court seeking more and more and more.

If they lose, they appeal, hoping to eventually find a judge who will go along with them. If they win, they pop open the champagne, collect a check from the government — if a federal agency was sued — and send out pleas for more money to help them continue their fight to “save” the environment.

They will never give up...

Government intrusion at its worst


My husband and I have been ranching in South Texas for many years, and we have worked hard to care for the land my family lives on today. This same testament holds true for millions of other ranchers and landowners across the country.

Sadly, it seems like every time we turn around the federal government finds another way to try claiming the land and resources that constitutionally belong to us.

One issue that has raged for years is the U.S. Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) claim that it owns 30,000 acres of land along a 116-mile stretch of the Red River on the Texas-Oklahoma border. The Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association (TSCRA) has heard from members along the Red River who are worried about the federal government taking control of their land, and TSCRA shares their concern.

The federal government claims this property has been under its control since the 1803 Louisiana Purchase. Ironically, the federal government has surveyed only about 6,500 acres of the land, and the results are highly questionable. The survey method they used differs greatly from the accepted gradient boundary survey method established by the Supreme Court in the 1920s.

TSCRA and affected citizens believe the BLM’s claim to this property is completely bogus. Those who live and own agricultural operations on this stretch of land hold the deeds and continue paying the property taxes. As a landowner myself, the thought of the government taking away property many of these citizens have worked tirelessly and sacrificed to own is unfathomable.

While one of the many Red River land disputes was recently resolved, much work needs to be done to put the entire issue to rest.

Fortunately, U.S. Rep. Mac Thornberry and Sen. John Cornyn introduced H.R. 2130/S. 1153, the Red River Private Property Protection Act, to protect private landowners along the Red River from federal ownership claims.

This legislation includes several key provisions to accomplish its intended goal. It commissions a survey of the entire 116-mile stretch of contested area along the river using gradient boundary survey methods backed by the Supreme Court to find the proper boundary between Texas and Oklahoma. This survey must be paid for by the federal government and conducted by licensed state land surveyors chosen by the Texas General Land Office.

Additionally, the legislation provides legal certainty for citizens holding the deed to their property by allowing them to appeal any further public domain claims by BLM through an administrative law judge...

 Leslie Kinsel and her husband Dan operate ranches in Central and South Texas and are active members of Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association. 
Her email address is


NM continues to cut its water use

Water managers across New Mexico aren’t giving up on their push for residents to conserve water even though severe drought has disappeared from the state. For the first time in more than four years, federal maps show the worst levels of drought are now gone from the state, and only abnormally dry to moderate conditions exist in the western half of the state. A healthy monsoon season is to thank, and more moisture is on the way this week for parts of central and western New Mexico, forecasters with the National Weather Service said. However, watering restrictions in Albuquerque will not end soon, said Katherine Yuhas, the conservation officer for the Albuquerque Bernalillo County Water Utility Authority. “Just because it rained doesn’t mean that all of a sudden the fact that we live in a desert has changed. The conservation message remains in effect,” she said. The good news: New Mexico’s largest city is on track to curb its water use again this year. As of mid-August, residents and businesses had used 1.1 billion gallons less than last year. Water use has been going down steadily in Albuquerque since 1995, Yuhas said, and the trends are no different in Santa Fe and Las Cruces...more

Hillary's ethanol flip-flop reveals a Democratic sclerosis on cronyism

Hillary Clinton once opposed the ethanol mandate, which harms drivers, consumers, ranchers, the environment and the economy.  Now, as she runs for president, Clinton supports the mandate, which benefits the state of Iowa — and in exchange, presumably, she's earned the endorsement of former Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack, an ethanol-subsidy aficionado. During the 2002 debate over an energy bill that included an ethanol mandate, Clinton took to the Senate floor to say that while she believed ethanol had potential, she couldn't support "an astonishing new anti-consumer government mandate — that every US refiner must use an ever-increasing volume of ethanol." Earlier this year, Clinton wrote in a local Iowa paper that Iowans "deserve to be able to get ahead and stay ahead. To make that possible," she supports the ethanol mandate. Hillary's flip-flop, and the utter lack of principle or shame behind it, shocks nobody who has paid attention to Mrs. Clinton's political career. But Clinton is one of a long line of erstwhile ethanol opponents who converted on the road to Des Moines...more

New approach examined at Seven Cabins Spring in Lincoln County

A source protection plan for Seven Cabins Spring on the Lincoln National Forest will be revamped after a meeting with interested adjacent landowners concerned about water being fenced off from livestock and wildlife. Lincoln County Manager Nita Taylor said at the June and July county commission meetings, commissioners were told about the potential fencing of the Seven Cabins Spring by the Smokey Bear Ranger District staff. District wildlife biologist Larry Cordova explained the purpose of the limited fencing and how accommodations for livestock and wildlife were part of the design. But on Aug. 8, District Ranger Dave Warnack, who returned from temporary duty heading the Gila National Forest in western New Mexico, along with Cordova and George Douds of the district met Taylor and interested landowners and ranchers at the site to discuss the proposal being funded by revenues from the state Habitat Stamp program. Seventeen people attended, including Taylor and Commission Chairman Preston Stone, a rancher. Seven Cabins Trail 66 is located in the Capitan Mountains Wilderness and is accessed from U.S. 380. Fencing water sources on the national forest developed into a contentious issue in neighboring Otero County and the Sacramento Ranger District of the national forest.  "The initial plan was to fence to protect the spring source and associated wetlands to restore habitat and the water source," Taylor said. "After lengthy discussion, (Warnack) agreed to abandon the initial plan and to begin the process to change the scope of work for the already approved project, and to begin the implementation of an alternative corrective action." The concept is for a two-year project of placing pipeline and water storage to capture the entire water production of the spring, Taylor said. "The excess water that caused the marshland would be placed in use, rather than running unused on the terrain," she said. "(Warnack) was receptive to the interactive process leading to the decision, but he advised at some point and under certain circumstances, the fencing off of an area may be the appropriate solution. At that point, ranchers and owners will work with the Forest Service for a solution."...more

Ranch Radio Song Of The Day #1476

Jimmie Davis is telling us he's just Fifteen Miles From Dallas.  The tune is on his Cowgirlboy LP album by the same name.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Judge blocks WOTUS rule one day before scheduled implementation

A federal judge has issued a preliminary injunction stopping the Obama administration's Clean Water Rule from going into effect on Friday, a sizable victory for agricultural interests who brought lawsuits to halt the rule. In his opinion, Judge Ralph Erickson, a District Court judge for the District of North Dakota, said it appears the EPA “has violated its Congressional grant of authority in its promulgation of the Rule at issue.” He went on to say that the states who brought the lawsuit - North Dakota, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Idaho, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, South Dakota, Wyoming and two state agencies in New Mexico - “have demonstrated that they will face irreparable harm” if the rule were to go into effect Aug. 28.  Many in the agricultural community saw the Clean Water Rule - also known as Waters of the U.S., or WOTUS - as an expansion of EPA authority over new bodies of water, such as smaller waterways and wetlands, that are not currently subject to Clean Water Act protections...more

From the decision: 

                                                             SUMMARY OF DECISION

Original jurisdiction is vested in this court and not the court of appeals because the “Clean Water Rule: Definition of Waters of the United States,” jointly  promulgated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, has at best only an attenuated connection to any permitting process. If the exceptionally expansive view advocated by the government is adopted, it would encompass virtually all EPA actions under the Clean Water Act, something precisely contrary to Section 1369(b)(1)(F)’s grant of jurisdiction.

The court finds that under either standard – “substantial likelihood of success on the merits” or “fair chance of success” – the States are likely to succeed on their claim because (1) it appears likely that the EPA has violated its Congressional grant of authority in its promulgation of the Rule at issue, and (2) it appears likely the EPA failed to comply with APA requirements when promulgating the Rule. Additionally, the court finds the other factors relevant to the inquiry weigh in favor of an injunction.

New Mexico Game Commission approves proposal to expand hunt limits on bears, cougars

The New Mexico Game Commission on Thursday approved new rules that will clear the way for expanded hunting and trapping of bears and cougars around the state. The commission's vote was unanimous despite passionate pleas from wildlife advocates and other critics who questioned the population data the state Game and Fish Department used to justify the new hunting limits. Some of those packed into the meeting room shouted at commissioners following the vote, saying they should be ashamed. They were also upset because public comment was limited to an hour. The Game and Fish Department has argued that new population data for the two species warranted an update of the hunting limits, and the livestock industry has urged state wildlife managers to keep predator populations in check as a means of limiting threats to cattle and sheep. The new rules will allow for more black bear hunting in all but two of the state's game management districts as well as the doubling of cougar hunting limits. The trapping and snaring of cougars on private land and state trust land will also be allowed without special permits. Critics argued that more hunting will have negative long-term effects on animal populations and that clearing the way for trapping on state trust land could endanger the public and other wildlife for which the traps are not meant. Game officials told the commission that existing harvest limits for cougars are not met in 85 percent of the state's management zones. In some of those areas, less than three cougars are killed each season, representing just a fraction of the sustainable harvest limit. They also said the density of black bears in the northern Sangre de Cristo and Sandia mountain ranges is substantially higher than the estimates used by the Game and Fish Department to establish previous hunting limits. They did note that the density of the species is lower in the southern Sacramento Mountains...more

New Mexico Game Commission delays decision on federal appeal of Mexican wolf permits

The New Mexico Game Commission has delayed a decision on an appeal filed by federal officials who are seeking to release endangered Mexican gray wolves as part of recovery efforts in the Southwest. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service initially sought three permits, including one to release a pair of wolves and their pups onto federal land in New Mexico and another allowing for up to 10 captive pups to be raised by foster wolves in the wild. The requests were denied in June by the state game and fish director. The Fish and Wildlife Service's regional deputy director, Joy Nicholopoulos, told commissioners during a meeting Thursday in Santa Fe that delaying releases could compromise the genetics of the wild population in New Mexico and Arizona. The commission is expected to take up the matter again next month.  AP

Clinton lays out four-part plan for rural America

With USDA forecasting a 36 percent drop in net farm income, Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton returned to Iowa today to announce her policies to strengthen agriculture and support rural communities. With a John Deere tractor in the background, she was introduced by Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, who endorsed her candidacy for president on Tuesday. Clinton told the crowd her focus is on four key areas: energy, investment, agriculture and assets to help families to succeed. Clinton proposed strengthening the Renewable Fuels Standard “so that it drives the development of advanced cellulosic and other advanced biofuels, protects consumers, improves access to E15, E85 and biodiesel blends, and provides investment certainty.” She also said her goal is to have more than a half a billion solar panels installed in this country by the end of her first term and produce enough clean renewable energy to power every home in American within 10 years of taking office. Clinton proposed expanding access to equity capital for small businesses by increasing the number of Rural Business Investment Companies, which could make equity investments in small rural businesses. She would create a national infrastructure bank and invest in infrastructure to support rural transportation, water and broadband access. Specifically, she would focus on increasing and adoption of high-speed broadband access “so rural small businesses can better connect to the global economy, farmers and ranchers can benefit from agricultural technology and students can benefit from distance learning.” Clinton said she would support the next generation of farmers by doubling funding for the Beginning Farmers and Ranchers Development program. She would also double funding for the Farmers Market Promotion Program and the Local Food Promotion Programs to expand food hubs, farmers markets, give Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) recipients' access to fresh food, and encourage direct sales to local schools, hospitals, retailers and wholesalers...more 

Other than the usual sop to the corn growers for ethanol,  there's not much there.  Unless, of course, you're young and need a government loan to market organic tomatoes to your local food stamp recipients (sorry, I mean the partakers of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program).

PLF sues over EPA’s attack on a Wyoming farmer and his stock pond

Cheyenne, Wyoming;  August 27, 2015:  U.S. Clean Water Act regulators are violating federal law by telling Andy Johnson, owner of a small farm in Fort Bridger, Wyoming, that he did not have the right to create a stock pond on his land, and by threatening him with millions of dollars in fines if he does not bow to their demands and destroy the environmentally beneficial pond.

So contends a lawsuit against the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), filed today by attorneys with Pacific Legal Foundation, representing Johnson.  Donor-supported PLF is a watchdog organization that litigates for limited government, property rights, and balanced environmental regulations, in courts nationwide.  PLF represents Johnson without charge.

Filed in U.S. District Court for the District of Wyoming, PLF’s lawsuit points out that Congress expressly exempted stock ponds from Clean Water Act (CWA) jurisdiction.  In violation of this provision, EPA bureaucrats have issued a “compliance order” demanding that Andy Johnson’s property be returned, under federal oversight, to its condition before the stock pond was created.  This decree carries astronomical financial penalties:  The fine for not acceding to a CWA compliance order is $37,500 per day; during the 14 months that he has tried to explain to EPA its error, his potential liability has already grown to over $16 million.

 “We are challenging an outrageous example of EPA overreach against a private citizen who has done nothing wrong,” said PLF Staff Attorney Jonathan Wood.  “Andy Johnson constructed a pond for his livestock by damming a stream on his private property with no connection to any navigable water.  Under the plain terms of the Clean Water Act, he was entirely within his rights, and didn’t need federal bureaucrats’ permission.

“In addition to providing water for his livestock, the pond has been an environmental boon,” said Ray Kagel, a former Army Corps of Engineers enforcement officer and environmental consultant.  “It created wetlands where there had previously been none.  It provides habitat for fish and wildlife, including migratory waterfowl, passerine birds, a bald eagle, and moose.  And it improves water quality by providing a place for sediment and other suspended solids to settle.

“According to tests by an independent lab, the water flowing out of Andy’s pond is three times cleaner than the water entering his pond,” Kagel noted.  “And the suspended solids in the nearest navigable waterway — the Green River — are 41 times greater than in Andy’s pond, which means that Andy’s pond is significantly cleaner than the downstream river that’s allegedly affected.”

The case is Johnson vs. EPA.  More information, including the complaint, a video, and a podcast, may be found at PLF’s website:

This is an edited version of a PLF press release which was embargoed until today. 

Wolves’ Arrival in California Spurs Calls for Management

Photographic evidence of a pack of gray wolves in Northern California has ranchers concerned that the predators are becoming established in California, and that the state lacks a plan to allow ranchers to protect their livestock against wolf predation. The California Department of Fish and Wildlife released multiple photos last week showing what it has named the "Shasta Pack": a group of two gray-wolf adults and five pups in Siskiyou County. It is the first confirmed sighting of gray wolves in the state since a lone wolf, OR7, entered California in late 2011; that wolf has not been in the state for more than a year. It is also the state's first wolf pack since the species' extirpation more than 90 years ago. Announcement of the wolf discovery comes more than a year after the California Fish and Game Commission voted to list the gray wolf under the state Endangered Species Act, making it illegal to hunt, pursue, catch, capture, kill or attempt any of those actions in California. The gray wolf is also protected under the federal Endangered Species Act. Ranchers said they were disappointed in the state ESA listing and remain concerned about the impact wolves would have on their livestock should they become established in the state. The wolves' arrival has led DFW to delay release of a draft management plan that ranchers hope would outline tools they could use to protect their livestock. The department said the plan—which has been in development for more than three years and involved input from a wide range of stakeholders—will need to be revised to include reference to wolf presence in California. Siskiyou County rancher Jeff Fowle called delay of the wolf plan "unacceptable," saying ranchers need to know what's in it "to see if it's something we can live with." "It's got to be a plan that actually manages (wolves) and doesn't just look the other way," he said. "Pardon the pun, but it needs to have some teeth in it." Ranchers say the state ESA leaves them few options on how to protect their livestock. Some interpretations of the law, Fowle said, also make unclear the legality of certain methods once thought to be acceptable...more

Did Glaciers Lure Wolves Back into California?

...The CDFW press releases place the animals within 10 or 15 miles of the summit of Mt. Shasta. Since wolf pack territories in the western US average 200-500 square miles in area, they are likely to travel to the extensive slopes of Mt. Shasta. Are the glaciers on Mt. Shasta one of the reasons that the adults, ranging south from Oregon, chose this specific location? Until there is a full database of sightings and tracks, and perhaps radio collar recordings, the precise movement of these animals will not be known. But two lines of evidence suggest an association of the Shasta Pack and Mt. Shasta’s glaciers, the most extensive in the state. Recent conditions might make a glacier peak attractive. In the spring and summer of 2015, Oregon has been in drought conditions characterized as severe or extreme. Drought is commonly associated with reduced populations of key prey species for wolves. And mule deer and elk populations in Oregon are currently low. In this context, predators might be attracted to the relatively green vegetation on Mt. Shasta, supported by the peak’s abundant snowmelt in spring and early summer, and glacier meltwater in late summer. In a telephone interview, the ranger at McCloud Ranger Station in Shasta-Trinity National Forest, the station closest to Mt. Shasta, said that local wildlife densities are “more favorable than other parts” of the national forest. He added that he was “speaking as a hunter” who is familiar with the region and in contact with other hunters. He added that additional scientific information will be available when CDFW completes the studies of deer populations that it is currently conducting. Historical patterns in other western states also show that the arrival of wolves has been associated with glaciers. Wolf packs were eliminated in Montana by the 1930s, though individual animals occasionally strayed across the state’s long border with Canada in the following decades. The first new pack in the state was established in 1979 near Glacier National Park. In Oregon, where the last wolf bounty was paid out in 1947, the first wolf pack in recent times was seen in 2006 in a range with glaciers– the Wallowa Mountains, OR-7’s home area. After the extermination of Washington State’s last wolf pack in the 1930s, the first pack in recent years in the state was recorded—also with a trail camera—in 2008 at Lookout Peak, in the glacier-rich North Cascades...more