Monday, October 31, 2016

41 Days And 8 Months Later: Dissecting The Oregon Standoff Trial


In the shadow of trees covering Chapman Square park in downtown Portland, four of seven defendants acquitted of conspiracy in the occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge posed for pictures.

David Fry smiled as he flashed a peace sign. He slung his arms around co-defendants Neil Wampler — clutching a hotdog from the victory barbecue and a stack of newspapers with his face on them — and Shawna Cox. Jeff Banta stood to the far right. An alternate juror named Sarah Foultner stood between them while a supporter cycled through phones to capture the moment for everyone.

The prosecution didn’t picture the trial ending like this.

“Disappointing,” said U.S. Attorney for Oregon Billy Williams of the not guilty verdicts. “Bitterly so.”

Just as quickly as the defense proclaimed a victory for rural America, occupation opponents dubbed the result an embarrassing loss for the prosecution. And supporters of other movements — #BlackLivesMatter and #NoDAPL to name two — wondered aloud about the meaning of justice.
But 41 days and eight months later, the leaders of the armed occupation in eastern Oregon were found not guilty by a jury of peers.

Still, questions remain: How did it happen? And what happens next?

The article continues with sections titled The Charges, The Prosecution, The Defense, The Verdict, The Celebrations, The Implications.  

Whew! Big Weekend

Cowboy Reunion, Frank DuBois BR & CR, Delk Band Dance, plus kinfolks visiting.  Hope to post items later.

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Will a ‘frozen zoo’ save the Mexican wolf?

Endangered Mexican wolves roam the wilds of New Mexico, Arizona and Mexico. They also live in captivity. But their future may lie in a “frozen zoo.” That’s the term of endearment scientists use for the bank of frozen wolf sperm and ovaries housed at the St. Louis Zoo in Missouri and Chapultepec Zoo in Mexico City – two cryogenic vaults where some of the most precious genes of the species are being held for future reproductive use. Even as New Mexico continues to fight with the federal government over the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s troubled program to reintroduce Mexican wolves to the wild, the scientists charged with breeding the species back into greater numbers are pushing on with the complex work of preserving the genetic diversity of a captive population that began with just seven wolves. “Right now, our mandate is to preserve genes,” said Cheryl Asa, a reproductive physiologist who led the research program at the St. Louis Zoo for 30 years and now serves as a consultant. “This is looking into the future so that, as animals die who are genetically important to the species, their genes live on.” Since 2007, the quest to preserve Mexican gray wolf genes has included “vitrifying” the ovarian tissue of female wolves that are past reproductive age in hopes of one day being able to impregnate younger females through in vitro fertilization – although the technology does not yet exist to perform this technique in dogs or wolves. But researchers are getting close, Asa said. “The ‘frozen zoo’ is what some of us call it,” said Maggie Dwire, assistant Mexican wolf recovery coordinator with the service. “We aren’t going to find new founders. We need to be very careful about retaining the genetic diversity we do have.” Just before breeding season, during the last two weeks of January, when the wolves’ eggs are close to ovulation, they are spayed like a domestic dog would be spayed – an operation that might happen at one of the 51 institutions that hold captive wolves. The wolf ovaries are wrapped in gauze, kept warm in a saline solution, packed in a container and immediately shipped in the cargo hold of the next passenger plane headed to St. Louis, Asa said. In the St. Louis Zoo lab, scientists use a needle to draw out egg cells from each follicle; the remaining tissue is vitrified and banked, “kept in liquid nitrogen forever, or until they might be used,” she said...more

Cowgirl Sass & Savvy

Nothing was there

Julie Carter

Like a best horse, favorite dog or a rattlesnake story, every cowboy’s got a ghost story and usually several. Since it’s the season, I’ll share a few with you. Most of the story tellers aren’t very definitive about actually “seeing” anything. It’s more what they didn’t see and what they can’t explain.

Two cowboys were headed out of town back to the ranch about 3 a.m. making pretty good time by cowboy standards. A full moon lit the desert landscape up with an other-worldly kind of luminescence that went unnoticed by the duo. The two were jamming to familiar music and jawing about whatever when a car came out of nowhere, flying low, and passed them.

Not too much further down the road, the car suddenly pulled over and stopped just ahead of the cowboys. They slowed and rolled on up next to the car. The windows were down but no one was inside that they could see. They got out of their pickup, looked in the car. No one. Looked under the car. No one.

They knew there was no way for whoever was driving that car to get out and get gone before they got there. They also knew they would have seen it happen in the moonlight. The rest of the ride to the ranch was somber and reflective.

But the experience wasn’t foreign to one of the cowboys. He talks of a road that goes north from ranch headquarters out into reservation country. Often when headed down that road, he would start feeling like someone was riding in the back of the pickup. Said he’d even stopped and looked in the back a time or two. Nothing.

Big country and long empty miles don’t offer much in the way of security in the dark when the spirits decide to move. As the dirt road curves around a set of remote shipping pens, one can see headlights coming at you. You pull over, and they never come on by you. Investigation by daylight reveals no reason for the lights. Nothing reflective, no explanation.

Breaking glass

The old house that served as ranch headquarters was once a stage coach stop. The thick adobe and rock walls made it a fortress that shut out the sounds of the night.

The cowboy had spent the evening reading and was ready to call it a day. He turned the light off and just as he did, another light about 2-inches in diameter appeared and started moving across the ceiling. It traveled down the wall, across the floor and over to his bunk. He watched it move back up the wall and to the place on the ceiling where it had begun. Then it disappeared. 

In that same room was a window about 2-feet wide and 4-feet tall. He was alone at the ranch. Not another soul around. It was a dark night with no light coming from the outside. There was no explanation for what he’d just seen.

He went on to bed but some hours later he was awakened by the sound of breaking glass. He grabbed his pistol and headed to the door. Stepping out on the porch in the dark, there was still nothing. Nothing, including no broken glass anywhere.

While it was a little spooky, the visiting “light” went right along with the regular incidents at the saddle house. The lights would be off and as soon as he got over to the washroom, the lights would be back on. He’d walk back to the saddle house and pull the string on the light fixture to turn them off, all the while feeling that someone was in there watching. The unusually cold temperature of the saddle room remained winter and summer.

Ghost horse
There’s a natural spring and a set of corrals near the Ladron Mountains that is the watering hole for a horse that cannot be caught. Cowboys that have camped at that spring say a hobbled horse comes in, drinks and leaves. When a trigger was set on the gate to close it if anything came through, it worked as planned. The cowboy that set the trap heard it trip in the night, heard the horse. And yet the next morning, the gate was closed but there was no horse in the corrals.

Turn out the light. No promises it will stay that way.

Julie can be reached for comment at

Wilderness, Wolves, and Wets

The Case of Grant County
Wilderness, Wolves, and Wets
Rancher, Miner, Lumberman
By Stephen L. Wilmeth

        Thank you Grant County Farm Bureau for asking me to speak tonight.
You need to know I am not enamored with public speaking, how undesirable a talent it normally is to possess, and how little good it generally does. Like your namesake, General Grant, I will suggest that most of our public men and women should follow the good example which I have always set by not speaking.
            I do appreciate the honor of returning to the place of my birth. It has been a big circle, many things have changed, and not for the better. Having been a few places I will say that Grant County of the ‘60s and before was not just a good place it was a grand place. I will also say that the Cliff Valley with its backdrop of the Mogollon Mountains is one of the great places on Earth.
            It was here in Grant County one of the great American tragedies occurred and hastened the loss of what could have been, what should have been, and what may be impossible to recover.
To describe it, lets’ start in the Mississippi watershed.
            There is a book out by Miriam Horn entitled Rancher, Farmer, Fisherman. Miriam spent several years researching the book starting in Montana on a cattle ranch. She dropped south into Kansas and studied a heartland farm. She then boarded a river boat on the Mississippi and gained understanding of the significance of what that waterway, that grand farm to market road, means to the nation. She finished her journey in Louisiana learning what it took to be a shrimper and a deeper water gulf coast fisherman.
            Her journey chronicled the history of people and the land and the water they call home. None of her five subjects would likely call themselves conservationists, but they certainly are dedicating their lives to protecting their way of life and their resources.
            Horn does her best to elevate the notion that traditional, conservative Americans are hostile to environmental issues. She makes the case by the interaction of her subjects and how they finally understood and took proactive approaches to social and environmental constraints waged against them. In Montana, it was how to live with legislation protecting 300,000 acres of public lands much like we now face in Dona Ana County. In Kansas it was how to deal with declining water supplies and what is viewed as harsher chemicals including nicotine derived pesticides. In Louisiana, it was the success of grassroots leadership that helped shape and revise fishery policies.
            The upshot is that the elitist buzz word, sustainability, is not limited to hardcore greens and environmentalists. On the contrary, the stewards out horseback, on their tractors, and on their boats and barges understand it better than anybody.  Moreover we, the people with dirty hands, understand our survival is a mosaic of constant change in partnership with our resources.
            We aren’t stupid, but we live in a world that is highly suspicious of us left unsupervised with the stewardship of those resources, God given resources, that can make us free and independent people.
            Grant County is a best example of that fundamental problem. You are not free and independent men and women and it appears it will only get worse.
            Your county has largely become a managed, landscape scale system driven by formula and theoretical paradigms. That has been magnified since 1970 when ecosystem became the buzz word. What you have been robbed of is that ecosystems, by their very nature, are complex, and must be addressed by diverse practices not landscape scale land use policies. That is the role of the land steward and that is the conflict between our dominant and growing federal system and what should remain the focus of our system … you, the cornerstone of the constitutional model.
            Rancher, Miner, Lumberman
            For a land so rich in resources, Grant County and southwestern New Mexico is measured at high risk by social standards. In fact, your neighbor, Luna County, makes the nation’s top 20 list of most at risk counties because it meets a population threshold. If Hidalgo and Catron Counties had more people, they would rank even higher. That ranking considers such things as job opportunities for youth, polarization of age within the demographics, and wages.
            Thomas Jefferson threw a fit when his Declaration of Independence committee colleagues John Adams and Benjamin Franklin suggested changes to his draft. He objected to the suggestion of changing Property as in Life, Liberty and Property to Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness. His objection should be similar to ours.
What is Pursuit of Happiness in the context of the Declaration of Independence and the Preamble to our Constitution?  How can we define Pursuit of Happiness in what should be a purely objective document? It can’t be done.
            Jefferson knew what Property was but he was one of the few. I have become convinced there were only two or three of the Founders and Framers who understood the significance of what Property meant in constitutional context. It is so important that its absence from our system today has elevated the possibility of our collapse. This presidential race is but one indicator.
I believe Property, as in private property as in LAND is THE insurance policy in the defense of the return of King George style tyranny. I also believe the erosion of our property rights had its roots right here in Grant County like no other place in this nation.
The story started in 1884, when Peter McKindree and Emily Jane Shelley, arrived on Mogollon Creek at the end of their long journey overland from Texas. When they arrived that fall, they bedded their cattle on the unfenced bench above the creek and tied their horses to trees because there was nothing else there. Not a shed, not broken down corral, and certainly not a house greeted their arrival. There had never been a permanent resident on that bench above the creek. They were the first.
They lived in a tent. That was replaced by a dugout, which was replaced by a single room log cabin. Peter built a little three room frame house for Emily and their four children in 1887. From her son, Tom’s memoirs, she thought she had moved into a mansion.
The log cabin and the frame house are still there preserved by the modern day 916 steward, Terrell Shelley, Peter and Emily’s great-grandson. Terrell and his wife Charlene now represent 132 years of Shelley stewardship on Mogollon Creek, and, if that doesn’t equate to sustainability, nothing does.
The time line now becomes important.
From 1884 through 1898, the Shelleys created basic infrastructure, contended with Indians, fought drought, reacted to markets, raised children to adulthood, and made Mogollon Creek home. The lands they lived on, especially the lands north of what they called the “high ridge” which was the upper Mogollon and Turkey Creek watersheds in their entirety, became known to the family as “the wilderness”. That was the parlance they adopted. It was remote requiring pack strings and extended stays. What they didn’t know was they were on the cusp of the dominance of a new landlord, the federal government.
In 1899, legislation was enacted that created the Gila Forest Reserve. That legislation captured the majority of Shelley country which probably did not qualify as Article X lands of the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, but, rather, unclaimed lands of the New Mexico Territory. In either case, title to them prior to statehood remained a function of the Territorial Government and was administered out of the General Claims Office. Records indicate that gaining title to lands was an exercise in futility. It took up to 50 years to gain title to such lands outside of the inner workings of the government.
Remember, that was pre-statehood. There was still no elected representation when the Forest Reserve was transferred to the USDA in 1905 and the land became known as the Gila National Forest. The Shelleys were simply swept along. There was no recourse. There was no matter of public comment or certainly no opportunity of objection without representation or means to fight the action.
So, after 21 years of commitment laced together with sheer guts and sweat, the family had a new landlord.
In 1906, grazing records were started and the hand of the great white father in Washington was placed upon their backs. From 1899 through 1922, Peter Shelley continued to expand his operations adding cattle numbers as he created infrastructure. At the beginning of the second decade of that span, the Forest Service started controlling fires with their policy of full suppression following the devastating fires of the northern tier states in the 1910 when many people were killed in monster fires. Leading up to the 1916 Stock Grazing Act, pressure was applied to Congress to allow administrative fencing on ranches that were operating under the thumb of the federal landlord.
Here is a point of great importance and you must remember it when you are confronted with the reminder that the Gila was overgrazed by cattlemen.
The population of feral cattle in the Gila at the turn of the century was fairly substantial. Those cattle arrived variously, but the promotion by the federal government to support various war efforts and to establish Indian reservations created an economic vacuum for beef. The Texans responded and brought cattle to New Mexico in numbers that mixed with existing feral cattle from the Spanish and Mexican occupation. The only markets for cattle during that period were adult steers that could make the long walks to market. Look at where New Mexico was to national markets. There was no market for cows, bulls, and calves. Without being able to build fences by Forest Service policy, the management of mixed ownership of cattle became a nightmare. It also contributed to the erroneous environmental declaration that ranchers systematically overgrazed the land. Ranchers who managed their operations weren’t going to kill unbranded or unclaimed cattle because of civilized range standards. Under those conditions, overgrazing occurred in walking distances from scarce waters especially in times of drought. Where water didn’t exist there were no cattle which adds insult to ignorance surrounding the claim that ranchers overgrazed the land.
From famed Gila forester Henry Woodrow’s diary, we now know that even though there was congressional approval for fencing since 1916, the Gila ranchers weren’t allowed to begin until 1922. The tardy federal landlord, like the tardy General Claims Office which effectively disallowed earlier title transfers, was claiming they didn’t have enough help to get fencing permitted. They didn’t have enough staff. Their desks were too full of paper.
Land stewardship suffered.
The decade of the ‘20s sewed the seeds of major destruction. Many will say the crash of 1928 was the biggest debacle, but history will demonstrate that wasn’t the case for the Gila. The year of pending destruction was 1922, the year Aldo Leopold arrived. He thought it a wondrous place. He even got to fight fire along side Supervisor Wynn, Mr. Woodrow, and colorful “local cowboys” that included the Shelley boys. He ate their camp prepared meals. He heard their discussions and their love for “the wilderness”. There is no evidence he stayed on any fire long enough to declare it out, but his summer on the Gila gave rise to a watershed event much bigger than the Indians, drought, and markets since 1884.
Through a regional administrative action, not federal legislation, Leopold crafted the document creating “wilderness”. In 1924, the Gila was the first national forest to have such a designated area. The effects of the designation wouldn’t be felt for several years, but when it came it was catastrophic.
The impact to the 916 and the Shelley family leading up to chaos of the Depression began with the drought of the late ‘20s. That, of course, elevated the impact of the market crash which affected the entire economy. Peter Shelley was carrying ranch debt, but he had also incurred debt on the purchase and development of farms at Cliff and the establishment of a hardware and grocery business. It was the latter that really put him in a bind in that he carried a large segment of the community who couldn’t pay their bills during the Depression.
In response to banks calling loans, he sold cattle. He sold a big portion of his herd “north of the high ridge”, his wilderness cattle. The first five years of the Depression era resulted in terribly hard times. To make it work, Peter’s sons and grandsons worked without a paycheck. That was followed by Peter’s death in 1935 when executor, Tom Shelley, stripped the rest of the cattle off the wilderness and sold farms to settle the estate.
That was followed by the onset of World War II and the Shelleys signaling to the Forest Service they were finally to a point they could start restocking their Mogollon Creek Allotment, the wilderness. In a blow that defied war time logic and civilized behavior, the Forest Service denied the reinstatement. From a letter Terrell Shelley found in the families archives, the Forest Service declared the absence of Depression era improvements on lands they were allowed to keep as rationale for denial of restocking. More than 5½ Townships of country occupied by the family for 60 years starting 16 years before the turn of the century was taken. They were incredulous. They were devastated. The tragedies of the ‘30s had been bridged, beef was in high demand, and the Forest Service denied reinstatement of livestock on federal lands on the premise that lands outside of the eviction were left unimproved through the Depression.
Let’s think about that.
We can say it was an abuse of power. We can say that was a precursor to elevating federal regulations over legislation, or we could shelve the niceties and describe Forest Service management for what it has always been, but, let’s describe it for what it was and remains an American tragedy of huge proportions.
The First family of Wilderness, the very folks that coined the name in the modern use, was evicted without recourse, without warning, and without cause from country they had occupied 15 years before the national forest reserve, and 21 years before the Forest Service existed.
What happened thereafter, the rest of the story, needs someday to be revealed.
Modern Wilderness
             In 1964, the Wilderness Act was passed and the nation’s first wilderness area, the Gila Wilderness, was officialized. That was 20 years after the Forest Service, in what can only be described as the environmental propensity that has no constitutional or market corrective oversight, evicted Grant County and the nations’ first family of Wilderness. It was interesting to note that, during a congressional field hearing held in New Mexico in the run up to its passage, New Mexican wildlife manager, Elliot S. Barker, arose and asked New Mexico Senator Clinton P. Anderson how many more ranching families he expected to run off the land. The senator disavowed any such intention, but, if you are familiar with the legislation, you will know that under special provisions (5) one of the two exceptions was inserted noting that “where established prior to September 3, 1964, (the grazing of livestock) shall be permitted to continue subject to such reasonable regulations as are deemed necessary by the Secretary of Agriculture”. That is in the law because of the Shelley incident and the Barker reminder. The Forest Service wasn’t going to right a wrong. They got what they wanted. They eliminated the Mogollon Creek Allotment in a letter dated May 18, 1944. Without an active allotment on file, neither they nor Anderson were about to allow the First Family of American Wilderness to return to their historic range.
            As to the promise not to run more families off the wilderness, Anderson’s promise rings hollow. In his research, NMSU’s John Fowler found there were 24 active allotments in the original wilderness core in 1960. By 2000, half of those were gone and cattle stripped from that historic range. Moreover, the other 12 allotments suffered a whopping 87% reduction in cattle numbers. Fowler could not find any trends of reduction caused by drought or market conditions. His conclusion was that Forest Service management alone was the reason.
            What that demonstrates is that the Wilderness syndrome, once introduced and allowed to take root, destroys heritage industries. It isn’t just cattle that face the consequences. The timber industry faces the same thing. So does mining, and, those three industries, livestock, mining, and timber, formed the nucleus of the heritage industries that set the foundation for southwestern New Mexico prosperity.
            Moreover, your future, the future of this quadrant of the state, is a primary target for more wilderness designations. You might have hugely interesting mineral and rare earth deposits along with forests languishing between despair and smoke, but you have no legal right to them or a claim to what was once unique customs and culture. You live in a federal protectorate state that is going to battle you at an ever increasing rate. Your existence isn’t equal to the original colonies, or, for that matter, any state eastward from here because Wilderness, that abstract condition of liberal bliss, has us cornered.
Its influence is much greater than anyone heretofore has comprehended except families that face its wrath. Under another name it claimed the lands of the Tularosa Basin during and since World War II. The same argument can be made for hundreds of other national monuments, national parks, Indian Reservations, and military reserves.
            It has us without protection and we will only drop deeper into the depths of despair by relying on federal handouts. Just look at the state budget woes if proof is needed. This state depends on the largesse of the federal government for nearly 40% of its budget. We aren’t independent. We stand in a welfare line that is only getting longer.
            One of the symptoms of the tradeoff of being chronically attached to the federal teat is living with wolves.
            In lieu of self sufficiency and the political clout to make our own decisions, we long ago traded off our right to self governance. Actually, I don’t believe New Mexico ever had equal footing with other states, but that isn’t just this state. It is every state west of that 98th Meridian where government land ownership dominates, but we are actually lucky in that regard. Only half of this state is owned by one form of government or another. States like Nevada and Alaska run over 90%, but the point is we became vulnerable to what must now be termed the great passion laws, the environmental laws, that gave rise to the Endangered Species Act and the arrival of the wolves. It doesn’t matter these are wolf/ dog hybrids and the act doesn’t cover them. They are here. It doesn’t matter they are disruptors of customs and culture. They are here. It doesn’t matter that the management of the hybrid is corrupt and unconstitutional. They are here.
            They are here for the same reason the Shelleys were evicted. They are here for the same reason you can’t freely manage your God given and abundant resources.
            Standing in stark juxtaposition to the Gila Wilderness tragedy have long been several local private land ranches. Let’s use the H-Y as the example. The Means family are land stewards of long standing. When Jupe was alive, I spent a fair amount of time around him. He was a mentor and a most welcome cheerleader for me in my agricultural career in California. I would hear from him and he would drop timely, appreciated suggestions. What stood out more than his personality, though, was the quality of his ranch. I heard the cat calls and the sniping about he had the best ranch to start with, but I have come to believe that is nonsense. Best ranches exist in every corner of the land. Best ranches are a function and commitment to stewardship. They exist by life long devotion to a mission with money and effort piled back into them for productive gains. The efficiency of placing that money came from a deep and abiding loyalty to the ranch itself. Remember, already tonight we have established that ecosystems, by their very nature, are complex and must be addressed by diverse not standard practices.
            The H-Y remains the epitome of an ecosystem, and it and other similar private lands ranches are the true paradigms of what wilderness can be not the imposter named Gila Wilderness.
            But to carry this point further in this journey into Grant County history, Jupe, like Peter Shelley and his descendents, also knew the true value of Wets. Now, I know that too many of you in this audience grew up around wets and recognize that the use of the term today may have uncouth derogatory implications, but you also know how important wets were and remain to the economy of Grant County. Before redistribution, trusts, retirement pensions and welfare became the largest provider of funding in your county, wets and copper were the economic drivers.
If there weren’t enough wets each year, the economy suffered. If there were abundant wets, improvements could be made, a few guarded, extras could be bought or exchanged. Fences could be built, staves could be cut, and, generally, everybody benefited.
            There aren’t, though, as many wets today. In their absence, the very unique customs and culture of old Grant County face continued decline. I find great despair in that because I think what wets create in a man is as important as what they do for the economy and the ecosystem.
            We have discussed John Fowler’s research demonstrating the precipitous decline of wets across the Gila since 1960. Their decline is piled upon you and this county by the same forces that brought you the wolf, and future and more numerous wilderness areas, a world in which you won’t be welcomed.
            More wets are always preferred to less, and if you get too many of them you can always knock one in the head and put it in the freezer, or, if they are ugly you can ship a load along with the rest of your dries. The point is you don’t have enough cattle in this county. You are being systematically diminished along with the declining health of landscape scale forest system and public lands and we don’t have alternatives. If this election goes south, it will only get worse. We’ll be fighting each other as we seem to be doing more and more.
            I used to think it was only where wilderness, the government, environmental groups and ranchers converged that ranchers were the ultimate losers. I know now that you can substitute any productive citizen in the place of rancher in that algorithm and it will be similar. Productive citizenry, like the ranchers, miners, and lumbermen of Grant County’s past, have demonstrated a very high extinction rate when they come under the rule of government.
            Heck, I am now a national monument rancher, probably a walking dead man, just like my great-great-grandparents and too many other Grant County families that came here under supremely hard conditions and spent life times trying to create something that existed theretofore only in their dreams. They were never wealthy or privileged people. They were simply courageous people.
            But, if you did get to take back the Gila, the most important tool in your arsenal would be those wets and dries, yes those cattle, that will make the best engineered paths to water and feed, give a lot more than they get, and demonstrate real measures of ecosystem health. Jupe consistently got over 90% calf crop. I read in Tom Paterson’s testimony the other day in Washington his wolf presence doesn’t allow those numbers. The spread is the profit for the ranch.
            Which ecosystem is healthier? There would be no comparison when truth and science converge and free and independent men are trusted to govern their own actions. A Grant County free of corrupted wilderness doctrine, wolves allowed to exist only on their economic merit, and more wets could contribute to a fascinating place … maybe better than 1960.

Stephen L. Wilmeth is a rancher from southern New Mexico. “Thank you, for letting me be here tonight for this reminder of your world, Grant County, and its story of Wilderness, Wolves, and Wets.

 Given to Grant County Farm Bureau banquet, Silver City, Thursday, October 27, 2016

Baxter Black: Rudy’s 2nd Letter

Whel frenz, I was ther. Bakster’s buk pardy. He prefurrs I refur to him az Mastr wich emplys sum Roilty capasite. So far az ledership I’d rank him sumwher just behind General Custer.

So, he throes this BBQ to anowns his latest markitting asolt on the gollabul! I red sum ov it. At lest the pichurs ar gud. His artist frends demonstraded wye thay mak a livin drowing insted of trhowin a rop!

His mother an stepfodder was ther. He putt the ol man tar pappuring the wel howz- his mother was a soprise. I’d herd him tel peppel he was an orfan to get simpathe.

Bumbling Black mus be a pirromanyak! He stokd the campfhire with enuf wud to bild a hunting loge, then primd it with a galon of gass. He lit it an blu the hud offe his pikup!

By dark the blaz had burrnd doun to the siz of a smal apartmnt complx!

Garre shode up luking 4 a yodeling dawg. I awdishunned but I’d breethd enuf somoke to fog ten akers of cotten, so he passed.

Lee Pitts: Can new farm technologies help farmers and ranchers?

Computers and the Internet have turned many businesses upside down and in many cases, eliminated them entirely. In this technological movement for improvement farmers seem to be ahead of ranchers. Go to any farm show these days and you’d think you were at a big computer convention in Las Vegas. 

Farmers use everything from mechanical pickers and thinners to soil probes that tell them where to deliver a few drops of water. Half million dollar combines crawl all over fields that before were only good for skiing on. When I first heard of Autosteer® I thought it was some kind of castrated robot, only later to learn that it was technology that allowed tractors to drive themselves.

Oh sure, ranchers got excited about cattle implants that could be barcoded and read with a scanner until it was discovered that consumers could end up with a cow chip on their plate. Not that kind of chip. I’m talking about a computer chip. Personally, I got real excited about the possibility of using drones to find where cattle were hiding until the FAA got involved and started making all sorts of rules and regulations concerning their use. I’m sure some day you’ll have to have a commercial pilot’s license to operate a $50 drone.

So far the cow/calf business hasn’t exactly been swamped with new products utilizing cutting edge computer technology but that could be about to change. Unfortunately it’s the same old story. I have both good news and bad news for cowboys. First, the good news.


Ranch Radio Song Of The Day

The gospel tune on Ranch Radio today is He Knows by Eddy Arnold

Saturday, October 29, 2016

‘Part of a miracle’: Jubilation at Bundy ranch in Nevada over Oregon acquittals

Jubilation was in the air Friday at Cliven Bundy’s ranch, with family members of the imprisoned patriarch calling the acquittal of two of his sons for seizing a national wildlife refuge in Oregon a “vindication” of the family’s feud with the federal government. “Justice has been served and we were part of a miracle,” Bundy’s beaming wife, Carol, told the Review-Journal at the Bundy ranch, nine miles southwest of this unincorporated Clark County town, referring to the Oregon jury’s exoneration of the couple’s sons Ammon and Ryan and five other anti-government defendants Thursday in Portland. She had just finished speaking by phone to Ammon, who remains behind bars in Oregon. “Their thoughts were finally they’ve been vindicated,” she said. “And their thoughts went immediately to LaVoy Finicum, because his death now has been vindicated, too. With them being not guilty, he also is not guilty.” Carol Bundy, 62, her face no longer drained from stress, smiled as she sat on a wooden bench with peeling turquoise paint and spoke about assimilating the news of the acquittal. The conversation was punctuated by laughter from her barefoot grandchildren playing in the front yard and roosters crowing in the back. But she said her sons are weary of the legal ordeal and hopeful it is nearing an end. “They’re tired of being locked up. They’re tired of being unfairly held way from their families,” she said. She said the wait since the arrests of her sons and husband has “been a long hard ride,” but she was buoyed by the Oregon verdicts and is “hoping everything gets dismissed” before the trial in Nevada. “We’re moving forward with some other motions, a lot of discovery,” she said. “We have a lot of things that we can hit them with here in Nevada that they don’t even know.”...more

U.S. Marshals' tackling of Ammon Bundy's lawyer creates buzz in legal community

When U.S. Marshals physically subdued attorney Marcus Mumford at the finale of the Oregon militants' trial, the encounter created a buzz across the legal community with experts saying they'd never seen anything similar happen before. Marshals tackled and used a Taser on Mumford, Ammon Bundy's defense lawyer, following the Oregon standoff leader's acquittal in the federal conspiracy case Thursday. The agency said in a news release Friday that Mumford had become "upset and aggressive" in court after the jury verdict. The federal agency is conducting a review of the marshals' actions, according to Thadd Baird, supervising deputy of the U.S. Marshals Service. But he declined to discuss any further specifics about the highly unusual use of force. "The overwhelming consensus in legal circles is that any kind of altercation between law enforcement and lawyers in a courtroom is virtually unheard of," said Kateri Walsh, spokeswoman for the Oregon State Bar. "It just doesn't happen." Mumford had been arguing that his client should be released from custody immediately, but U.S. District Judge Anna J. Brown said Bundy had a hold on him from a pending federal indictment in Nevada. Mumford yelled at the judge, and suddenly six to seven marshals closed in on him, surrounding the attorney at the defense table. The judge told them to move back, but soon after, the marshals grabbed Mumford. They yelled at Mumford to stop resisting while the judge ordered everyone out of the courtroom. The description of Thursday's events also led other lawyers to question whether the marshals had been too heavy-handed. "My understanding is he just raised his voice," said Carrie Leonetti, a University of Oregon law professor who previously worked as a federal public defender in California. Leonetti said the marshals likely considered the number of people in the courtroom before taking action, but also questioned their using a weapon against the lawyer. "They need to be proportional to the threat," she said. Leonetti said it would be more common for an attorney who wasn't following orders to be held in contempt, not taken down. "I cannot think of a time when courtroom security officers have used force against a lawyer," she said. Leonetti said the marshals' actions have an "unfortunate appearance of retaliation," but she believes their response came from training. "The optics of tackling the lawyer who won – the optics of that are unfortunate in any situation," Leonetti said...more

Oregon juror in Bundy brothers' trial blames prosecution's weak conspiracy case for acquittal

One of the Oregon jurors who acquitted the Bundy brothers and their bird sanctuary-seizing brethren says the verdict was no endorsement of their actions. Juror No. 4, in a Friday email to the Portland Oregonian newspaper, said the panel’s decision reflected how miserably federal prosecutors failed to prove their conspiracy case against the seven men. “Inference, while possibly compelling, proved to be insulting or inadequate to 12 diversely situated people as a means to convict,” wrote Juror No. 4. The juror — who maintained his anonymity in the email — said the panel later spoke with federal trial Judge Anna Brown and questioned the prosecution strategy against the seven occupiers of the federal land. The jury was told that alternate charges, including criminal trespass, didn’t carry what the government considered significant jail time. “We all queried about alternative charges that could stick and were amazed that his ‘conspiracy’ charge seemed the best,” he wrote...more

Interior secretary warns employees to be 'vigilant' after Bundy decision

Interior Secretary Sally Jewell told department employees she is concerned that a jury’s decision to acquit six men and a woman in connection with their occupation of a remote Oregon wildlife refuge could endanger federal employees. In a letter sent Friday to Interior Department staff, Jewell said she respected the jury’s verdict but that staffers should be vigilant — and careful — going forward. “I am profoundly disappointed in this outcome and am concerned about its potential implications for our employees and for the effective management of public lands,” Jewell wrote. Jurors told news outlets that prosecutors had failed to convince them that the occupiers had conspired to keep federal agents from doing their jobs. In her letter to department staff, Jewell said she and Deputy Interior Secretary Mike Connor had visited the refuge in March, shortly after the occupation ended. The employees she met there, she wrote, had been worried about their own safety. “The armed occupation in Oregon was and continues to be a reminder that employees in all offices should remain vigilant and report any suspicious activity to your supervisor and, where appropriate, law enforcement officials,” Jewell wrote...more

Friday, October 28, 2016

Ammon Bundy's 10 hours of testimony may have swayed jury

The leader of the armed Oregon standoff sat on the stand for more than three days, laying out his views on the Constitution, the federal government and the duty of man in his plain-spoken way . It was Ammon Bundy’s 10 hours of testimony that likely won over jurors in a trial that concluded with seven people being acquitted Thursday of federal conspiracy and weapons charges, one legal expert said. “It gave Ammon a chance to explain his side,” Lewis & Clark Law Professor Tung Yin told the Daily News. “And apparently the jury seemed to agree. I think it’s really hard to see this as anything other than jury nullification.” “This is much bigger than the Hammonds,” Ammon Bundy told the court about his quest in Oregon to bring awareness to what he called injustices carried out by the federal government. “It’s for my children, grandchildren. “Everything comes from the Earth and if [the government] can get control of the resources, they can get control of the people.” Bundy, a father of six, described federal government officials as modern day Roman emperors trying to rule over their subjects by restricting access to resource-rich territories. “We need to wake up,” he told the jurors and the courtroom. Ammon Bundy’s lengthy testimony was possibly a turning point in the trial, Yin said. “The fact that they acquitted on everything must be representative of some kind of mistrust of the government or a symbolic protest, or anger at the government,” he said of the jurors. Yin, who followed the case closely, said he was stunned that jury found the occupiers not guilty of conspiracy and possession of firearms at a federal facility. “I erroneously thought this would be a slam dunk for the government,” he said. “And I’m sure the government, to a degree, the government prosecutors are surprised.” He pointed to the mountains of evidence, photos and even Bundy’s own testimony, that proved the group carried guns while in the bird sanctuary. Bundy told the court that the occupiers toted weapons because they would have been arrested otherwise. And they had to protect themselves against possible government attack, he said. “Of course you have to wonder if this this will embolden future Bundys,” Yin said. “But they’ve lost nine months of their lives. I don’t know if I were an anti-government type, I dont think if I would look at this as a true victory.”...more

Bundy brothers remain jailed following attorney's outburst in Oregon courtroom

The Bundy brothers remained in jail Friday following a dramatic acquittal a day earlier in a courtroom that erupted into chaos after an attorney yelled at a judge for their release, resulting in him being subdued with a stun gun and arrested. A jury delivered an extraordinary blow to the government Thursday in a long-running battle over the use of public lands when it acquitted all seven defendants involved in the armed occupation of a national wildlife refuge in rural southeastern Oregon. After the verdicts were read, an attorney for group leader Ammon Bundy demanded his client be immediately released and repeatedly yelled at the judge. U.S. marshals tackled attorney Marcus Mumford to the ground, used a stun gun on him several times and arrested him. U.S. District Judge Anna Brown said she could not release Bundy because he still faces charges in Nevada stemming from an armed standoff at his father Cliven Bundy's ranch two years ago...more

link has been updated

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Jury finds all Oregon standoff defendants not guilty of federal conspiracy, gun charges

A federal jury Thursday found Ammon Bundy, his brother Ryan Bundy and five co-defendants not guilty of conspiring to prevent federal employees from doing their jobs through intimidation, threat or force during the 41-day occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge. The Bundy brothers and occupiers Jeff Banta and David Fry also were found not guilty of having guns in a federal facility. Kenneth Medenbach was found not guilty of stealing government property, and a hung jury was declared on Ryan Bundy's charge of theft of FBI surveillance cameras. "Stunning,'' said defense lawyer Lisa Ludwig, who was standby counsel for Ryan Bundy. "I'm just thrilled,'' said Neil Wampler's attorney Lisa Maxfield...more


...“The jury began by reading out the verdict for Ammon Bundy, ostensibly the leader of the occupation, and when we heard that Ammon Bundy was not guilty, it became clear very quickly that likely no one in the case was going to be found guilty, and indeed, everyone has been acquitted.”
After the verdict was read, Ammon Bundy’s attorney Marcus Mumford was tackled to the ground by five U.S. Marshals. He insisted his client was free to go. Ammon Bundy faces a US Marshall hold and is supposed to be transferred to Nevada where he faces charges for the Bunkerville standoff.
“There’s a hold for Ammon Bundy and Ryan Bundy out of the district of Nevada,” said Matt Schindler attorney for Kenneth Medenbach. “‘There’s nothing Judge Brown can do about that. So acquitting him here, all it does is effectively release him to that hold, to be transported to Nevada. And the court that has anything authority to deal with that, is the court in Nevada. Marcus let the emotion of the moment, I think, overtake his better judgement.”...more

Northeast United States will have new national wildlife refuge

Americans will soon have a new national wildlife refuge to visit in five New England states and New York. The Great Thicket National Wildlife Refuge, finalized by the US Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) on Tuesday, includes 15,000 acres of land that mainly consists of shrubland teeming with as many as 136 types of animals and insects, according to the Associated Press, which includes the New England cottontails and American woodcock. It also hosts threatened and endangered species such as bog turtles and the Massachusetts's northern red-bellied cooter. This new refuge is a continuation of President Obama’s streak in holding the record for protecting the most public land and water of any past president. It will be the 18th created under his administration since 2009 and the 566th in the nation, joining a network of protected areas covering over 150 million acres of land. It also increases the amount of land under FWS’ purview. In August, Obama expanded the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument in Hawaii to become the world’s largest marine protected area that spans two wildlife refuges. For the refuge to materialize, the next step for FWS is to acquire land from willing landowners in non-contiguous areas in Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, and Rhode Island. According to the Associated Press, the officials say they plan to purchase half of the land targeted while obtaining the other half through conservation easement. The process could take decades, as the press release points out. It is entirely up to landowners to decide if they want to sell or donate their land to become part of the refuge. They could also opt for conservation easement, where the owners permanently sell property rights to FWS that restricts the types of activities that can be done on the land...more

For a list of recent refuges go here

Do you notice the difference of how this is done in private lands states and federal lands states?

The EIS for this wildlife refuge says, 

 All refuges within the project area have approved CCPs, and all have goals and objectives related to the restoration, maintenance, and continuing management of shrubland and young forest habitat. All of the CCPs were released for public and partner review and comment, with accompanying public meetings in their respective areas. 

A CCP is a Comprehensive Conservation Plan.

This is for 15,000 acres. All plans are completed with public review and comment prior to designation, and it is voluntary on whether or not you are part of the refuge.

Compare that to the 500,000 acre Organ Mtn-Desert Buttes National Monument. Sec. Jewell held one 'listening session', the plans come after the designation, and there is nothing voluntary about it.

Militarized Police Are Cracking Down on Dakota Access Pipeline Protesters

By Zoë Carpenter

After a weekend of mass arrests, people protesting the Dakota Access Pipeline are preparing for another clash with a growing and increasingly militarized police force near Cannon Ball, North Dakota. On Sunday, demonstrators set up a new camp, called Winter Camp, in the pathway of pipeline construction, on what they consider unceded territory belonging to them under the 1851 Laramie Treaty. But Dakota Access LLC, the pipeline developer, said in a statement that they would be “removed from the land,” which the company purchased from a local rancher last month. Police said on Wednesday that they are prepared to carry out that threat. “It’s obvious we have the resources, we have the manpower, to go down there and end this,” Cass County Sheriff Paul Laney said in an interview.

As the prospect of a raid on the Winter Camp looms, human-rights groups are increasingly concerned about law enforcement’s use of force against peaceful pipeline protesters (who call themselves “water protectors”), as well as journalists and legal observers. Demonstrators reported being pepper sprayed, beaten with batons, and strip searched in custody during the weekend’s arrests. Journalists were also arrested, and had their equipment confiscated.

In a Facebook post, Morton County Sheriff Kyle Kirchmeier described Saturday’s demonstration as a “riot,” and wrote that the “situation clearly illustrates what we have been saying for weeks, that this protest is not peaceful or lawful.” But it wasn’t immediately clear what he meant by a riot: The photo that accompanied the Facebook post showed protesters walking calmly through a field carrying banners and signs. Video footage showed people standing together, backing up as police approached. The only supposedly aggressive acts that the sheriff’s department described in any specific form included that two arrows were shot towards law enforcement, one officer was spit on, and that a drone that protesters were using to monitor police activity “attacked” a helicopter.

On Sunday, the Morton County Sheriff called for additional law-enforcement personnel from outside North Dakota. Officers from at least six other states—Wisconsin, South Dakota, Minnesota, Wyoming, Indiana, and Nebraska—have arrived so far. In his call for more resources, the sheriff cited “escalated unlawful tactics by individuals protesting the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline.” State and local officials also requested, and received, temporary flight restrictions from the Federal Aviation Administration in a seven-mile radius around the protest camps, which may be an attempt to keep away news helicopters, as it was during the 2014 protests in Ferguson, Missouri.


Mountain Lion ‘P45’ Suspected Of Killing Miniature Horse

Barbara Lyons considered her miniature horse named Marco Polo part of her family.
“Marco was the sweetest one, shyest one.” Barbara Lyons said. When Marco was missing from his pen at a Malibu Ranch over the weekend, Lyons thought he was stolen. On Tuesday, the horse’s body was found near his pen, killed but not eaten. Evidence shows it was attacked by a mountain lion.
“I just hope he didn’t suffer,” Lyons said. A spokesman with the Department of Fish and Game says about a half-dozen mountain lions are known to live along the Santa Monica mountain range. Any one of them could be to blame, but the one known as P45 is the prime suspect because he’s known to roam the area. A Malibu rancher says P45 recently killed some of his llamas and alpacas. Fish and Game officials say there have been a normal number of mountain lion attacks this year, about once or twice a month. However, they say they have never seen a miniature horse attack...more

Forest Service lifting closure after bear attack

Forest officials have decided to reopen an area where a man was attacked by a grizzly bear twice in one morning...The area was closed after Todd Orr was mauled twice during a morning elk scouting trip nearly three weeks ago. Orr recounted the events in posts on his Facebook page, writing that he ran into a sow grizzly and two cubs. The sow charged him once, biting and scratching him. Then, as he walked away, he was attacked again. Minutes after the attack, the blood-streaked Orr posted a video to Facebook and explained what had happened. Millions watched the video. Just a few weeks before Orr’s encounter, there were reports of a hunting group running into and shooting at a bear with one cub. Officials were unable to determine whether Orr ran into the same bear or a different bear...more

Judge rules Madison Valley trail is public

A federal judge sided with the U.S. Forest Service this week in a lawsuit over a trail dispute in the Madison Valley, ruling that a trail that partially crosses private lands is public. U.S. District Judge Sam Haddon ruled that there was a public prescriptive easement — meaning an easement that isn’t in writing — on a trail that crosses the Wonder Ranch, a property south of Cameron near the Indian Creek Canyon...The trail in question begins on an adjacent ranch, passes through the Wonder Ranch and continues on to the Lee Metcalf Wilderness area. No motorized use is allowed on the trail. Court documents say the landowners’ spat with the Forest Service began when the owners of the Wonder Ranch put up gates and signs that asked people to dismount horses and leash their dogs while passing through the property. Court documents say they put up another sign sometime between 2007 and 2009, saying access was given “by gratuitous permission of the landowner.” The Forest Service asked the owners to take down the signs and leave the gates open. The dismount and leash signs were removed, but not the one claiming access was given by permission of the landowner. Forest officials in 2011 filed a document with Madison County asserting that the trail was public. In response, the owners of the Wonder Ranch filed a lawsuit against the Forest Service in 2014. The suit argued that the agency’s claim of a public prescriptive easement had “no validity whatsoever,” citing a 2004 letter from the then district ranger saying that there wasn’t an easement on the property. But after two years of dueling motions, a trial and a judge’s tour of the property, the court sided with the Forest Service. Haddon’s opinion says records of the trail go as far back as 1888, and that it was included in a 1940 Forest Service map as trail No. 328. He went on to write about the cavalcade of users the trail has seen, from ranchers moving livestock along the trail as it crosses the property in the ’30s and ’40s to the hunters and hikers that have been using the trail in increasing number since the 1980s. Haddon wrote that during the warm seasons in the 1990s, the trail saw between 10 and 20 users a day. That established that the trail saw ample and varied use, but part of the case hinged on whether the trail users asked for permission. If trail users were consistently asking the landowner for permission, it would show that the landowner was actually granting access by “gratuitous permission,” as claimed by the sign they put up. But Haddon wrote that the majority of trail users didn’t ask for permission. Ranchers trailing livestock in the last century did so without asking permission and a number of outfitters, hunters and hikers using the public lands accessed by the trail did so without asking permission, supporting the argument that the trail was public. Haddon wrote that it didn’t matter if the landowners “waved, said hello or served them lunch” — they were accessing a trail they believed to be public...more

Rancher Associations work with BLM to fight fires

The Bureau of Land Management and Idaho Department of Lands hope to improve relations and firefighting efforts with ranchers in east Idaho. Eight Rangeland Fire Protection Associations have sprung up in many western regions of the gem state with just one so far in north eastern Idaho near Dubois. These associations allow trained ranchers in a rangeland to provide a quick initial attack on wildfires. A program like this would have benefited ranchers who wanted to fight the Henry's Creek Fire but couldn't due to lack of training and proper protective gear. "The RFPA's(Rangeland Fire Protection Associations) allow a channel for those landowners and ranchers to assist us in ways that they want to while also meeting our expectations of safety and communication" said Jesse Bender, Fire Information and Education Specialist. The Idaho Department of Land is hoping to create two new associations in east Idaho, one east of Idaho Falls and the other near Rockland.  KPVI

55 % of Farmers and Ranchers in Agri-Pulse Polll Support Trump

With your Agri-Business Update I’m Susan Allen. Agri-Pulse one of most trusted farm and rural policy sources in Washington, D.C. conducted a new nationwide poll from Oct. 15-18 on how farmers and ranchers will vote in the presidential election. 55 percent of those surveyed in say they'll support Donald Trump while 18 percent are throwing their support behind Democratic Hillary Clinton. Only 2 percent plan to vote for Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson and just 1 percent for the Green Party's Jill Stein. 15 percent of respondents said they were undecided and 8 percent refused to answer. Trump attracted 59 percent of the male and 37 percent of female voters, while Clinton drew support from 15 percent of the males and 33 percent of the females. Some 18 percent of the female respondents said they were undecided. The GOP nominee scored particularly well in two battleground states, with support from 68 percent of the farmers and ranchers in Ohio and 58 percent in Florida. The Agri-Pulse Poll, conducted by Aimpoint Research reached out to commercial operations of 200 acres or more. When asked if they were satisfied or dissatisfied with the way things are going in this country, a whopping 86 percent said they were “somewhat” or “very dissatisfied.” Indicating uptick from another Agri-Pulsepoll conducted in late January of this year.

Literary Las Vegas: Bruce Borgos

Bruce Borgos, a 50-year Nevada resident, began researching his first novel more than 15 years ago. He was intrigued by news stories about Nevada ranchers, like Cliff Gardner, who were fighting federal control. When an armed standoff erupted between cattlemen and the Bureau of Land Management in 2014, Borgos reworked his work-in-progress to reflect current events. The result was “Holding Fire.”


It feels like six people and a dog in a phone booth.

Heavy, gray smoke envelops us. Visibility zero. “Hang onto something!” the pilot commands us, struggling to get us off the ground. I look to the back as I buckle into the seat. There isn’t a whole lot for them to grab. Jordan has her arms wrapped around Natty. Rodney has one hand on Pal and one hand on the back of the pilot’s seat. John Henry has worked a hand through the cargo netting. As we lift off, we manage to gain a little height, maybe 30 or 40 feet, but the heat and wind from the fire below us has us bucking and rolling, and just as quickly we’re almost on the ground again. And then back up in the air. The rear rotor warning light appears on the panel in front of us, followed by a loud alarm.

Christ, this isn’t working. I look out the window and down, but there is nothing on the mountain top but fire and smoke. He can’t dip us over the edge of the ridgeline either because he can’t see the treetops that surround us through all the smoke. Only place to go is straight up.

“We’re still too heavy!” the pilot yells. “I can’t get altitude!”

Well, crap.

I twist in the seat and turn back to John Henry. “Pass me whatever is left!”


Song of the Day - Cowboy Reunion Special - 5 Tunes - 1964

A repeat from last years' reunion: For the NMSU Cowboy Reunion.  1964 Part 1  Roger Miller - Chug Uh Lug, Buck Owens - My Heart Skips A Beat, Connie Smith - Once A Day, Stonewall Jackson - BJ The DJ, Marty Robbins - Cowboy In A Continental Suit.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Federal judge dismisses a juror for 'good cause' in Oregon standoff trial

U.S. District Judge Anna J. Brown summoned the jury in the Oregon standoff trial Wednesday morning to Courtroom 9A and dismissed one of the jurors on the panel, a day after another juror had sent the court a note questioning the man's ability to be impartial in deliberations. She immediately had her deputy summon an alternate juror, selected randomly from numbers in a cup, to be ready to join the jury in federal court at 8:30 a.m. Thursday. The judge's decision came after she proposed the solution, saying she found "good cause'' to dismiss the juror but would only do so if both the prosecution and defense teams agreed to his release. If not, she said she'd likely have to question each juror, which could "run afoul'' of federal rules that prohibit the court from inquiring about their "mental processes'' in jury deliberations. After about a 15-minute break, Assistant U.S. Attorney Ethan Knight announced his team would agree with defense lawyers to dismiss the juror. "I've determined Juror 11 needs to be excused,'' the judge told the jury moments later, citing the "interests of justice'' and to ensure the case isn't jeopardized by the court's deeper questioning of jurors to figure out the fuller context of Juror 4's note. Brown expects to give the new panel, now made up of nine women and three men, jury instructions again. Alternate juror No. 18, a woman from central Oregon who works as a legal assistant for a state public defender and family law attorney, will join the remaining 11 jurors Thursday morning. "You need to start over with that alternate juror,'' the judge told the remaining jurors. The judge said they must "set aside the conclusions'' they've drawn, destroy any verdict forms they were given and clean up the jury room so the new panel can start afresh. "It's a new jury, a new day, a new start,'' Brown said. Brown had arrived in court Wednesday morning with her own proposed plan and noted that Ammon Bundy's lawyer had filed a motion asking the court to either dismiss the juror, question the other members of the jury panel or declare a mistrial. The judge thanked Juror 11 for his service and told him his dismissal does not mean he's done "anything wrong or anything untoward.'' "But the problem is, a question was raised and it can't be resolved without me questioning every one of you about your deliberative process,'' the judge said, and that's unacceptable and could violate federal rules. The jurors sat stone-faced, displaying no visible emotion. They were allowed to leave for the day by noon Wednesday, ordered to return Thursday morning...more

More on the dismissal of Juror #11

...Although Brown initially said the juror in question could still serve, she changed her decision Wednesday morning after the prosecution and all seven defense teams reached an agreement on the matter. Juror No. 18, a paralegal from central Oregon, will take the dismissed juror’s place. After making her decision, Brown called the 12 jurors into the courtroom, telling them the only way to deal with the question of bias was to dismiss the juror. She told the jury they need to completely restart the deliberative process. “You’re going to have to set aside the conclusions you have and start over, just like when the case was handed to you,” Brown told the jurors. Neither the defense nor the prosecution knows where dismissed juror’s alleged bias falls — with the defense, which strongly advocated for his dismissal, or the prosecution, which initially opposed the idea of a dismissal. Marcus Mumford, the attorney for occupation leader Ammon Bundy, spoke about that lingering question. “I’m racked with self-doubt (that this juror may have been on the defense’s side), but when it comes down to it, you have to be confident in your case, in your cause and in the presentation that you’ve been able to make and in justice,” Mumford said. Earlier in the day, Mumford asked Brown to dismiss the juror or declare a mistrial...more

Judge Brown agrees to dismiss juror 11

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Judge Anna Brown on Wednesday morning agreed to dismiss a juror in the Malheur Wildlife Refuge standoff case whose impartiality has come into question. The juror will be replaced with an alternate and the jury will start deliberations from the beginning...more


Ammon Bundy: Dismiss juror or mistrial

Embedded below is the motion filed by attorneys for Bundy which asks that juror #11 be dismissed or that a mistrial be declared.  Otherwise, they argue, the defendant's Sixth Amendment right to impartial jurors and a "fair trial" will have been violated.

Federal magistrate takes Beef Checkoff under advisement

Federal Magistrate Judge John T. Johnston heard arguments for 55 minutes Tuesday from attorneys representing the activist legal fund R-CALF USA and Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack about the Beef Checkoff program. Judge Johnston of the U.S. District Court in Montana then took his range of options under advisement. R-CALF wants him to grant a temporary restraining order while Secretary Vilsack believes the challenge to the Beef Checkoff should be dismissed for lack of jurisdiction or for failure to state a claim. R-CALF would also settle for a preliminary injunction. R-CALF, with the long formal name of the Ranchers-Cattlemen Action Legal Fund, United Stockgrowers of America, is a Billings, MT-based organization for independent cattle and sheep producers. It sued the secretary May 2, “alleging that the United States Department of Agriculture turns over proceeds from a federal tax on each sale of cattle to the private Montana Beef Council, to fund the council’s private speech, harming R-CALF USA’s members.” It said “the government-compelled subsidy of the speech of a private entity, which is not effectively controlled by the government, is unconstitutional under the First Amendment of the United States Constitution and should be enjoined.” The R-CALF lawsuit, however, revisits some of the the same ground as a 2005 challenge to the Beef Checkoff program that went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, which found the $1 per head charge for industry marketing and research funds “government speech,” not the commercial speech of individuals...more

New deadline for Mexican gray wolf recovery plan leaves conservationists wondering whether science or politics will prevail

The slogan spotted on signs outside New Mexico Game Commission meetings, on bumper stickers around the state and quoted by conservationists reads: More wolves, less politics. Whether that’s what conservationists find when the US Fish and Wildlife Service releases a long-awaited recovery plan for Mexican gray wolves remains to be seen. A federal district court judge signed off this month on a settlement stemming from a lawsuit filed against the federal wildlife management agency over the ongoing absence of a formal recovery plan for this most rare subspecies of wolf. Now the agency has a deadline of Nov. 30, 2017 for completing that plan. “We hope this is a turning point in the race to save the Mexican wolf—a unique, beautiful animal of the American Southwest—from extinction,” Bryan Bird, Southwest program director for Defenders of Wildlife, said in a statement issued shortly after the court decision was announced on Oct. 18. For 40 years, Mexican wolves have hovered in a sort of recovery limbo—an endangered species managed as an “experimental population.” That designation extended more flexibility to land managers on behalf of ranchers to remove and kill wolves when they interfered with or killed cattle, but conservationists argue the leeway has given too much room to the livestock industry and leaves wolves at risk of extinction. Both sides have called for an updated plan for how the species is managed, but the process has stalled out often over state objections and disagreements over how to deploy, as the Endangered Species Act mandates, the “best available science.” The plan is subject to an independent peer review before its completion, and plaintiffs, including Defenders of Wildlife, the Center for Biological Diversity, the Endangered Wolf Center and the states of Arizona and Utah, will be updated every six months between now and the deadline, according to the settlement terms. The public will also have a chance to review the plan before it’s finalized. The state of New Mexico had at one point joined the list of plaintiffs, but dropped out of the settlement, calling the deadline too hasty...more