Saturday, December 31, 2016

Happy New Year

Utahns aim to ‘Trump’ Bears Ears monument designation

In the wake of President Barrack Obama’s designating the Bears Ears National Monument Wednesday, Utah officials have vowed to use every means open to them to see the new monument undone. They are also looking to the next resident of the White House as a hopeful ally in this endeavor. During a gathering held Thursday in San Juan County protesting the new monument, many signs with the phrase “Trump this Monument” were displayed and held high. Speakers at the event also repeated the phrase as they appealed to President-elect Donald Trump to aid in dismantling the unwanted monument...As reported by the Deseret News, Goldfuss told reporters the Obama administration isn’t worried about the backlash out of Utah and believes attempts to undo the new monument will be unsuccessful. However, Conn Carroll, communications director for Sen. Mike Lee, told St. George News Thursday: “What has been done by executive power can be undone by executive power.” While the Act may not expressly allow a president to simply undo a monument designation, it does empower the president the ability to make “modifications,” Carroll said. “There’s nothing in the act that mandates or controls how much (a monument) can be changed,” he said. If Trump wanted to, Carroll said, he could change the size of the Bear Ears Monument and shrink it considerably. Once done, Congress could come in and pass Bishop’s Public Lands Initiative which would protect part of Bears Ears as a national conservation area while opening other parts to local and economic development. “That would functionally undo 99.9 percent of what Obama did,” Carroll said...Sen. Orrin Hatch said Wednesday that he will meet with Rep. Ryan Zinke, R-Montana, Trump’s nominee for interior secretary, and discuss what may be done about reversing the monument designation. “His responses will largely determine my support for his confirmation,” Hatch said...more

EPA To Alaskans In Sub-Zero Temps: Stop Burning Wood To Keep Warm


In Jack London’s famous short story, “To Build A Fire,” a man freezes to death because he underestimates the cold in America’s far north and cannot build a proper fire. The unnamed man—a chechaquo, what Alaska natives call newcomers—is accompanied by a wolf-dog that knows the danger of the cold and is wholly indifferent to the fate of the man. “This man did not know cold. Possibly, all the generations of his ancestry had been ignorant of cold, of real cold, of cold 107 degrees below freezing point. But the dog knew; all its ancestry knew, and it had inherited the knowledge.”

If only the bureaucrats in Washington DC knew what the wolf-dog knew. But alas, now comes the federal government to tell the inhabitants of Alaska’s interior that, really, they should not be building fires to keep themselves warm during the winter. The New York Times reports the Environmental Protection Agency could soon declare the Alaskan cities of Fairbanks and North Pole, which have a combined population of about 100,000, in “serious” noncompliance of the Clean Air Act early next year.

Like most people in Alaska, the residents of those frozen cities are burning wood to keep themselves warm this winter. Smoke from wood-burning stoves increases small-particle pollution, which settles in low-lying areas and can be breathed in. The EPA thinks this is a big problem. Eight years ago, the agency ruled that wide swaths of the most densely populated parts of the region were in “non-attainment” of federal air quality standards.

That prompted state and local authorities to look for ways to cut down on pollution from wood-burning stoves, including the possibility of fining residents who burn wood. After all, a declaration of noncompliance from the EPA would have enormous economic implications for the region, like the loss of federal transportation funding.

The problem is, there’s no replacement for wood-burning stoves in Alaska’s interior. Heating oil is too expensive for a lot of people, and natural gas isn’t available. So they’ve got to burn something. The average low temperature in Fairbanks in December is 13 degrees below zero. In January, it’s 17 below. During the coldest days of winter, the high temperature averages -2 degrees, and it can get as cold as -60. This is not a place where you play games with the cold. If you don’t keep the fire lit, you die. For people of modest means, and especially for the poor, that means you burn wood in a stove—and you keep that fire lit around the clock.

HT: Marvin Frisbey

Oregon standoff defendant Jon Ritzheimer now tries to withdraw his guilty plea

Just days after a federal judge denied one Oregon standoff defendant's motion to withdraw his guilty plea, co-defendant Jon Ritzheimer Friday filed his own motion to rescind his guilty plea. Jon Ritzheimer, who had entered a guilty plea on Aug. 15 to the federal charge of conspiracy stemming from the takeover of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, now argues that he's innocent of the allegation. A new court-appointed defense lawyer for Ritzheimer argues that Ritzheimer acknowledged he used force, threats or intimidation to take over the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, but the object of his actions was not to impede federal employees, as was argued at the fall trial of co-defendants Ammon Bundy, Ryan Bundy and five others. When he entered his guilty plea, Ritzheimer told the court, "On January 2, I learned of a plan to take the protest to the next level, and I agreed to go to the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge with an advance party. And I went there and I forcibly occupied the refuge. I did park my truck up at the top of the refuge, and I camped out there for a few days...And I can see how my conduct and my actions there would be intimidating. But I did forcibly go and occupy the refuge, and so I plead guilty to it. '' Ritzheimer's lawyer also contends there was new evidence on informants that arose during the initial trial, after his plea was issued, including the identity of several FBI confidential sources who were at the refuge: Mark McConnell, Terri Linnell and Fabio Minoggio. McConnell told federal agents that, "Ritzheimer is not participating much in any leadership decisions,'' according to redacted reports prosecutors provided to defense lawyers, according to Ritzheimer's motion. Linnell, interviewed by Ritzheimer's lawyer after the trial, said she would testify in his defense that she only knew him to be involved in peaceful protest, Ritzheimer's motion said. Linnell testified for the defense in the Bundy trial as well...more

Oregon occupation a year later

By Maxine Bernstein | The Oregonian/OregonLive 

A knock on the front door awakened Susie Hammond at the break of dawn. She struggled out of bed, hobbled by an aching right hip, and limped to the front of her small house in downtown BuQrns. Whoever it was, she thought, must be someone she knew because of the early hour. As she neared the door, all she could see was a large shadowy figure blocking the light that usually streamed through its glass panes. She unlocked the bolt and opened the door to find two men standing on the stoop. "Susan?'' one of them said. "My name is Ammon Bundy.'' So began Hammond's passage from 75-year-old matriarch of an eastern Oregon ranching clan to reluctant symbol of the rural West's revolt against federal ownership of vast resource-rich rangeland. The Hammond name became a mantra for Bundy as he moved into Oregon and seized the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge last winter in a 41-day takeover that captivated the nation with its cowboy ringleaders, armed followers and impassioned protest message. Bundy often invoked the story of Hammond's husband, Dwight Jr., and their youngest son Steven, convicted of setting fires on public lands and ordered back to prison to serve out five-year sentences. He saw their prosecution as the perfect example of federal authority run amok. Susie Hammond wasn't equally enamored of Ammon Bundy. Her family didn't invite his attention and didn't want it, she said in her first extensive interview since Bundy launched the surprise occupation on Jan. 2 -- about two months after he first appeared at the Hammonds' front door. She worked to keep her distance, shunning Bundy's requests that her family publicly stand with him as throngs of militants descended on Harney County and set neighbor against neighbor in a fierce debate over control of public land -- all under the eye of FBI agents who set up a command center at the tiny Burns Municipal Airport. The Hammonds had their own troubles to handle without picking a fight with the very people who controlled their future, she said. Yet over the past year, Susie Hammond has changed. She's come to appreciate Bundy's stand and populist politicking, if not his push to draw her family into his cause. She recognizes that his family's fight over cattle grazing rights in Nevada has parallels to her own family's conflict. She's tracked Bundy's arrest, trial and acquittal from afar...more

 A lengthy but interesting article which can be read in its entirety here.

Cliven Bundy’s “army” is back with more armed threats: “Time for another win”


Cliven Bundy’s anti-government militia members are “locked and loaded” in response to President Obama’s designation on Wednesday that 300,000 acres of land around Gold Butte will be deemed a national monument.

“Saddle Up!!!!! President Obama just designated the Bundy Ranch a national monument today! Get your gear ready,” read a Facebook post by Jon Ritzheimer, one of the men who captured Oregon’s  Malheur National Wildlife Refuge for nearly six weeks in 2015. Posters on the Cliven Bundy’s Army! Facebook group responded to the news with ominous comments. “This makes me sick. The government does not know their place. Nothing can keep them in line anymore. Have we lost our republic?” whined Joshua Martinez. “Locked and loaded ready to go. Tired of this crap and time to do something.” threatened Chris Border. When a poster named Neil Wampler wrote, “HA ! More fun and excitement ! We’ll just un-designate em,” Bill Goode (who originally posted the news to the group) responded, “Neil, I sincerely hope it will be that simple. It may take another Malheur.” After Wampler asked how the locals are responding to the news, Goode informed him that “Locals want to wait & see what Trump will do. However, I fear the BLM [Bureau of Land Management] may round up Bundy cattle again before Trump takes office. The Gold Butte monument covers about 1/3 of the former grazing allotment used by the Bundys. Bundy herd is not as big as it was, so perhaps they can get by until 20 Jan, if BLM doesn’t round up the cattle.” “So far it’s just been a lot of posturing,” said JJ MacNab, an expert on American anti-government extremism, in an interview with Vocativ. “But members of these groups are looking for something to happen. They don’t really care what it is.” The designation of the Gold Butte National Monument was part of a larger conservationist plan implemented by President Obama on Wednesday. In addition to the 300,000 acres outside of Las Vegas, Obama also designated 1.35 million acres in the Four Corners region of Utah as the Bears Ears National Monument. The purpose of both these designations is to protect the lands from energy development and other exploitative practices, while respecting the interests of both Native American tribes and environmentalists...more

Tribes get say in land management but worry about Trump

Native Americans who have long bemoaned their lack of participation in federal land decisions scored a major victory when President Barack Obama designated a new national monument in Utah that gives five tribes an opportunity to weigh in on the management of their ancestral home. But federal bureaucrats working under President-elect Donald Trump's cabinet appointees will still have the final say on all land decisions, and some tribal officials are concerned that the shared-management arrangement could quickly sour if the incoming administration charts a different course for the 1.35-million acre Bears Ears National Monument. Navajo Nation lawmaker Davis Filfred, who hopes to be on the tribal commission helping to oversee the monument, said he and others are worried, but they are trying to stay hopeful that the administration will give the commission a legitimate voice. "Now is not the time to bash him," Filfred said, "because I need him." Federal officials will also create a different advisory committee made up of local government officials, business owners and private landowners to provide recommendations. That board will probably lean heavy with people who opposed the designation over concerns about adding another layer of federal control and closing the area to new energy development, a common refrain in the battle over use of the American West's vast open spaces. The language designating the monument creates a tribal commission composed of one elected official from each of five tribes. That arrangement falls short of the full co-management system the tribes requested, but they still considered the setup a significant improvement. "It's double, not a home run from the tribes' perspective," said Kevin Washburn, a University of New Mexico law professor and the Obama administration's former assistant secretary for Indian affairs. "But it gives the tribes an important seat at the table."...more

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Locked out

Her husband will never return to trail the cows to winter range again, but Jeanette Finicum is determined that she will get the job done, eventually. Although she’s provided a check to fully cover fines assessed over the last year, the Arizona rancher continues to be locked out of both her winter and summer grazing ranges. Jeanette, whose husband Robert “LaVoy” Fincium was shot and killed by Oregon State Troopers last January, has managed grazing decisions on their northern Arizona ranch alone since his Jan. 26, 2016 death...

...The Finicums’ grazing fees have always been paid in full, she explains. Before traveling to Oregon to join protesters in opposition to the arrest of federal land ranchers Steven and Dwight Hammond, LaVoy had announced his plan to begin to pay his grazing fees to the county rather then the feds. He believed that constitutionally the state and county should be managing the land. “He made the announcement that he was no longer going to sign the contract, but the contracts were still in effect.” Because of of LaVoy’s untimely death, the contract remained intact and grazing fees were paid, Jeanette said. Jeanette said that the BLM fined her trespass fees for the days the cattle were on the winter allotment prior to Oct. 15, and fees continued to accrue, even after the Oct . 15 turn-out date came and went. In an effort to reduce the trespass fees to a more reasonable figure, Jeanette negotiated with the BLM throughout the spring. It came to her attention that she would not be allowed to use her “summer” range and she began to look for alternative pasture. Finding none, she felt like she had “nowhere to go,” and finally decided to dry-lot her cows and calves, taking them off winter range the first weekend in July. Although Tri-State Livestock News asked Arizona state BLM representatives a number of questions relating to this subject, their response was brief: “The Bureau of Land Management has been in contact with attorneys representing Jeanette Finicum and LaVoy Finicum’s estate since May 2016, in an attempt to resolve fines associated with a nearly year-long grazing trespass on the Tuckup Allotment,” said Amber Cargile, director of communications for Arizona’s BLM department. Jeanette continued negotiations with the BLM to not only lessen the trespass fines, but also to complete other paperwork the BLM was calling for because they were not recognizing her as the allotment owner. Rather than allow Jeanette to take over the grazing allotments after LaVoy’s death, state BLM representatives said she was not considered the heir to the allotments, even though she was the widow of one. They told her the grazing permits terminated upon his death and that she would have to start at square one with the application process to graze her (their) cattle on the allotment. Jeanette said the BLM also told her that her grazing rights are not “inheritable,” but she and her attorney disagree. “It is property and an asset to our estate,” she said. The BLM said an environmental impact study would have to be conducted to determine whether or not she was eligible to graze the allotments. Jeanette’s attorney advised her that under BLM rule 43 CFR 4110.2-3, the BLM is required to provide her two years to meet any paperwork requirements, and must allow her to continue to graze her cattle during those two years. Jeanette said she and her attorneys brought this law to the attention of BLM representatives and were told, “we don’t do it that way.”...

 “My husband is dead because he went out to help the Hammonds. He stood for them and now they (the federal government) are trying real hard to make an example out of my husband. This is what will happen if you dare stand up. It’s like they are saying ‘you get in your place and don’t get out of it again or we’ll put you in solitary confinement or we’ll kill you.’ That’s what I see happening — innocent people are in jail right now.” Jeanette Finicum


After being on U.S. Senator Domenici's staff for for several years (in the late 70s) I started noticing a pattern with the Forest Service:  The husband would die and the permit would need to be transferred to the widow, a child, or a new owner. It was at this point, when the widow/family was most vulnerable, the Forest Service would demand a cut in numbers before transferring the permit. No study, no EIS, just an arbitrary cut.

Backers of state control of US land gear up for new push

RENO, Nev. — Backers of a plan to force the federal government to turn over control of millions of acres of land to Nevada are gearing up for new efforts in Congress and hoped-for support from President-elect Donald Trump. They're starting with plans to convince a skeptical public that state control of nearly 7.3 million acres currently under the U.S. Bureau of Land Management wouldn't disrupt hunting, wildlife and off-highway riding — or stick taxpayers with big bills for fighting wildfires. "If they put this on the ballot today it would fail," said Nevada state Sen. Pete Goicoechea, R-Eureka, who supports the effort. "We are just looking for the opportunity to showcase the state can manage these lands better," he told the Reno Gazette-Journal. The most detailed plan is a former bill sponsored in Congress by U.S. Rep. Mark Amodei, R-Nev., called the Honor the Nevada Enabling Act of 1864. The bill, which expired with the end of the session, included two phases of land takeovers. The first would cover nearly 7.3 million acres, including about half within a checkerboard pattern traversing the state from Sparks to Wendover. Property the government has already "designated for disposal" was also included. The second phase would transfer millions more acres managed by the Bureau of Land Management, U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Reclamation "upon request by the state or local governments." Designated wilderness, conservation areas, national monuments, wildlife refuges, land managed by the defense and energy departments and American Indian reservation land would be exempt. All told, Amodei's bill could have reduced the percentage of land in Nevada owned by the federal government from about 87 percent to 75 percent. Critics called it overreach, compared with consensus land bills that tend to focus on smaller transfers and specific properties...more

How a federal land transfer could give California its key to secession

Many Californians woke up the night after the presidential election thinking that they were living in a different country. A few felt so alienated that they publicly raised the possibility of seceding from the United States.  There is no constitutional way, however, to do this. But there is a less radical step that would amount to a limited secession and would require only an act of Congress. Forty-five percent of the land in California is administered by the federal government — including 20 percent of the state in national forests and 15 percent under the Bureau of Land Management. Rather than outright secession, California could try to assert full state sovereignty over all this land. Until Nov. 8, California wouldn’t have cared about this, but with the prospect of a Donald Trump administration soon managing almost half the land in the state, Californians may want to rethink their traditional stance. Otherwise, they are likely to face more oil and gas drilling, increased timber harvesting and intensive recreational use and development on federal land in the state. Much of the rest of the West, moreover, might support their cause...more

Utah attorney general to sue over monument

The Republican attorney general of Utah says he's going to sue over President Barack Obama's designation of the Bears Ears National Monument that spans 1.35 million acres in the state. Attorney General Sean Reyes said in a statement Wednesday that he's working with local officials to file a lawsuit. He said Utah also will look to work with President-elect Donald Trump to try to curtail the monument. It comes after the White House announced the protection of land considered sacred to Native American tribes and home to archaeological sites, including ancient cliff dwellings...more

Judge denies Oregon standoff defendant Ryan Payne's motion to withdraw guilty plea

Calling it a classic example of "buyer's remorse,'' a federal judge Wednesday denied Oregon standoff defendant Ryan Payne's motion to withdraw his guilty plea to a conspiracy charge in the armed takeover of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge. U.S. District Judge Anna J. Brown found that Payne's plea in the Oregon case wasn't contingent on reaching a plea agreement in his federal prosecution in Nevada as his defense lawyer argued. "Although Payne apparently desired to enter into agreements that would resolve both this case and the case against him in the District of Nevada, the plea agreement and guilty plea in this case were, as noted, explicitly independent of any contemplated or anticipated agreement in the District of Nevada,'' Brown wrote in her 32-page ruling, citing statements by a prosecutor made during Payne's plea hearing in July. Payne entered the agreement here based on a global offer pending in the Nevada case, his lawyer wrote in his motion. When no agreement could be reached in Nevada, Payne, 33, asked to seek a jury trial in Oregon. Payne, one of the 26 people indicted on a conspiracy charge in the seizure of the eastern Oregon refuge, made his request two weeks before a federal jury acquitted Ammon Bundy and six co-defendants of the Malheur conspiracy and weapons charges...more

Lawsuit Launched to Save Lynx, Wolves, Condors, Other Endangered Animals From Deadly Pesticides

Conservation and animal-welfare groups today filed a notice of intent to sue the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for failing to protect imperiled mammals and birds from two deadly pesticides used to kill coyotes and other predators. The suit seeks common-sense mitigation measures to prevent exposure of the poisons to nontarget predatory and scavenging animals, including grizzly bears, Canada lynx, wolves and California condors. “We hope our lawsuit spurs reform of these barbaric tactics used to poison wildlife,” said Collette Adkins, an attorney and biologist at the Center. “These dangerous pesticides need to be banned, but until then, they shouldn’t be used where they risk killing wolves and other endangered wildlife.” The EPA has registered the pesticides at issue — sodium cyanide and Compound 1080 — for use by “Wildlife Services,” the predator-control arm of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, as well as by state predator-control agencies in South Dakota, Montana, Wyoming, New Mexico and Texas. M-44 devices propel lethal doses of sodium cyanide into the mouths of animals lured by bait, while Compound 1080 is used in “livestock protection collars” strapped onto the necks of sheep and goats that often graze on public lands. The collars contain bladders filled with liquid poison intended to kill coyotes. ..more

Deteriorating landscape casts doubt on racing at Salt Flats

Land speed racers from around the world have long flocked to the Salt Flats near the Utah-Nevada border, whose 30,000 acres offer a perfect testing ground for their specialized cars and motorcycles. For the last couple of years, however, most of the races have been canceled due to poor conditions. The sturdy salt crust that racers rely on is deteriorating, and though the precise cause remains unknown, the changes have revealedThe Bonneville Salt Flats formed roughly 12,000 years ago in the waning days of the last ice age. The massive lake covering central Utah began drying up, leaving behind a vast expanse of salt. By the early 1900s, speed enthusiasts had begun testing their cars on the hard wide-open surface, and over the years, faster cars were built and new records set. the surprising fragility of the landscape — and raised questions over whether or not it can be saved...more

USU professor says satellites can help track animal abundance

In a multi-institution study funded by NASA, a Utah State University ecologist says satellite imagery is key to studying wildlife abundance in Utah and throughout the Intermountain West. David Stoner, a research associate in the USU department of wildland resources, reached that conclusion after conducting a study on mule deer and mountain lion distribution in Utah, Nevada and Arizona with colleagues from USU, other institutions throughout the U.S., and Utah Division of Wildlife Resources. State land management officials have always been looking for better ways to come up with reasonable population estimates of animals. Trying to do that can be very time-consuming and expensive, Stoner said. So Stoner and his colleagues at other institutions used imagery from NASA satellites and combined that with the best estimates of abundance of animal populations from state agencies in Utah. The combination of data allowed the researchers to build a model so they could estimate abundance of animals across a wide area...more

US threatens tariffs on EU products unless ban on beef imports is lifted

The Obama Administration has announced it is taking action against what it calls the European Union’s (EU) unfair trade practices that it says discriminate against US beef imports. Acting on the request of the U.S. beef industry, the US has scheduled a public hearing and is seeking public comments in connection with the EU’s ban on most U.S. beef products. It says the EU’s ban on U.S. beef is not based on sound science and discriminates against American beef farmers, ranchers, and producers. If the trade action resumes, the United States would reinstate industry-supported tariffs on a list of EU products imported into the United States. "The WTO determined that the European Union's ban on US beef imports violates its international trade obligations," said Ambassador Froman. "The EU has failed to live up to assurances to address this issue, and it's now time to take action...more

Producers, vets gearing up for drug changes

In three days, the nation's livestock ranchers will have restricted access to some drugs that were available on an over-the-counter basis. In October 2015, the United States Food and Drug Administration amended its regulations regarding veterinary feed directive drugs, which will require livestock producers to gain approval from a veterinarian before purchasing some antibiotics. The changes take effect for producers on Jan. 1, but Jorgensen Land and Cattle, near Ideal, about 12 miles north of Winner, has already received two veterinary feed directives (VFD), similar to a prescription, this month from its vet for antibiotics. "The Winner Animal Clinic kind of used us as a test run to see how it went," said Cody Jorgensen, an owner and partner of Jorgensen Land and Cattle. "We internally set up a system or protocol, if you will, and are just trying to stay ahead of the game." Jorgensen isn't a fan of the new rules...more

More choices for Secretary of Agriculture

The Trump Administration has been moving quickly to fill cabinet positions. Farmers and ranchers across the country figured that Secretary of Agriculture would be filled relatively quickly. An early slate of candidates' names that popped up in early November was filled with familiar farm-knowledgeable names. Yet the choice has not been made and the list of candidates keeps changing. North Dakota Senator Heidi Heitkamp's name surfaced recently. She's a moderate democrat in her home state, and if she's appointed it's a good chance the North Dakota governor would appoint a Republican to fill her seat. A range of sources now say that the Heitkamp name was floated, but isn't going to happen. The two most recent names - those that popped up since Christmas - include Dr. Elsa Murano, the former president of Texas A&M and a former Agriculture undersecretary for food safety. She knows the department. Murano is one of the few to head that food safety division at USDA, a position that's currently vacant. She has a post-Bush Administration history of academic involvement with work at Texas A&M. The second, and latest, name to surface is former California Lt. Governor Abel Moldonado. The latino businessman is a Santa Barbara County farmer whose parents were Mexican farm immigrants, according to the Los Angeles Times. He is owner of Runway Vineyards in the Santa Maria Valley...more

Obama creates national monuments in Utah, Nevada

President Obama protected two massive areas in the American West on Wednesday, including a swath of southern Utah that has been at the center of a contentious battle over land protections for years. The areas newly protected from development and various activities are the Bears Ears National Monument in Utah and the Gold Butte National Monument in Nevada. Both areas are owned by the federal Bureau of Land Management. The actions further cement the aggressive conservation legacy of Obama, who has protected more land and water than any other president under the Antiquities Act. But the designations are among the most controversial undo Obama, with strong opposition among local and state leaders. Obama created the designations using his unilateral authority under the Antiquities Act, acting with just about three weeks left before President-elect Donald Trump takes office. It’s unclear if Trump could unilaterally undo Obama’s designations, because it has never been tried before. Some Republicans, including House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Rob Bishop (R-Utah), say it is within Trump’s power, though the Obama administration says the Antiquities Act does not allow monument designations to be undone. But the controversy surrounding Wednesday's actions, combined with Obama’s aggressive use of his Antiquities Act power, could lead Congress to roll back the protections or limit future presidents’ powers...Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) slammed Obama’s decision. “This arrogant act by a lame duck president will not stand,” Lee tweeted Wednesday. “I will work tirelessly with Congress & incoming Trump administration to honor the will of Utahns and undo this monument designation,” he added...more

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

What caused the mysterious deaths of four bears? Officials now know

Pennsylvania wildlife officials now know what caused the mysterious deaths of a bear sow and her three cubs in early December. On Dec. 6, the West Wyoming Police Department received a call about a dead bear cub, according to an early December Facebook post. Instead of one bear cub, officials found four dead bears, which had no signs of trauma. “At this time, the deaths of the animals are being considered suspicious,” the police department said in the Dec. 6 Facebook post. With few obvious clues about what caused the bears deaths, wildlife officials decided to send two of the bodies to the Penn State Animal Diagnostic Laboratory for testing. According to the toxicology report, it wasn’t human interference that caused the bears untimely deaths, but a common shrub. The 300-pound bear and her cubs consumed leaves and seeds of an English Yew plant, which can be deadly if consumed by animals or humans, according to a Dec. 22 Facebook post from the Pennsylvania Game Commission. The English Yew is commonly used as an ornamental shrub, and often found in urban environments, according to the game commission. “All species of yew contain the alkaloid compound “taxine” that is highly toxic to most animals and humans if ingested,” the Pennsylvania Game Commission said on Facebook. “The toxin is particularly lethal to animals with single-chambered stomachs.”...USA Today

Happy Birthday to the Bill of Rights

by |

Two hundred and twenty-five years ago this month, Virginia ratified the Bill of Rights, thereby enshrining its 10 Amendments in the Constitution. The official anniversary, 10 days ago, was noted here and there, but it did not get the sort of celebration it deserved: something like the Fourth of July and Mardi Gras and Christmas all rolled into one.

...You hear a lot of fiery argument over those particulars. What you don't ever hear is somebody suggesting that we ditch the Bill of Rights altogether.

And that is a marvelous thing, because the Bill of Rights embodies two notions that, in world-historical terms, are almost unheard of. The first notion is that government simply cannot do certain things. At the time—and, sadly, even today—that is a profoundly radical notion.

Yet to some Founders, the Bill of Rights was not radical enough. In Federalist No. 84, Alexander Hamilton argues that "bills of rights ... are not only unnecessary in the proposed Constitution, but would even be dangerous.

They would contain various exceptions to powers not granted; and, on this very account, would afford a colorable pretext to claim more than were granted. For why declare that things shall not be done which there is no power to do? Why, for instance, should it be said that the liberty of the press shall not be restrained, when no power is given by which restrictions may be imposed?"

As Hamilton saw it—and as the Tenth Amendment makes plain—Congress had no power to do anything not specifically enumerated in Article I. (The claim that the general-welfare clause grants the power to do whatever Congress considers good is a dodge; as Hamilton pointed out in Federalist No. 83, "The plan of the convention declares that the power of Congress ... shall extend to certain enumerated cases. This specification of particulars evidently excludes all pretension to a general legislative authority, because an affirmative grant of special powers would be absurd, as well as useless, if a general authority was intended.")

The other radical notion embodied in the Bill of Rights is the principle of live-and-let-live. As Thomas Jefferson put it, "The legitimate powers of government extend to such acts only as are injurious to others. But it does me no injury for my neighbour to say there are twenty gods, or no god. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg."

Your inalienable rights trump every competing consideration—law and order, national security, economic equality, aesthetic preference, religious belief—except one: the inalienable rights of somebody else. And even when someone tries to subordinate individual rights to lesser values, they pretend that's not what they're doing.

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Cowgirl Sass & Savvy

When in Babylon

by Julie Carter

What do you know about the New Year’s celebration except that it is when you make resolutions you won’t keep? January 1st wasn’t always the day celebrated for New Year’s although recognized as one of the oldest of holidays.

It was first observed in ancient Babylon more than 4000 years ago. Around 2000 BC, Babylonians celebrated the beginning of a new year on what is now March 23rd. It made more sense in that it was the season of the year that spring began and new crops were planted. January 1st, on the other hand, has no astronomical or agricultural significance, only the turning of a calendar page with a new number for the year denoted.

The Roman senate, in 153 BC, declared January 1 to be the beginning of the New Year and Julius Caesar did the same in 46 BC for the Julian calendar. But it was George Washington who began the custom of holding a party on New Year's Day where everyone was welcome. This became known as having an "open house" and is still done in many places today.

Regional foods help welcome the New Year in various parts of America. In Pennsylvania Dutch country, eating sauerkraut on New Year's Day is said to bring good luck. In the South the custom is to eat black-eyed peas. More often now, people use aspirin and ibuprofen to cure their celebration pain of the night before.

Making resolutions on this first day of the New Year can also be tied to early Babylon. While popular modern resolutions might include the promise to lose weight or quit smoking, the Babylonians most popular resolution was to return borrowed farm equipment.

In the cowboy world, resolutions might include a solemn promise to never eat Brussel sprouts, tofu, skinless chicken breasts, anything with spinach in it and certainly not fermented cabbage. Occasionally one hears of a cowboy who has sworn of paying entry fees, but that resolution on lasts until the next rodeo.

On the upside, a rural ranch dweller might dream of swearing off ice breaking, manure shoveling or any horse named Bronc. High on that dream list would be a warm calving season and sleeping longer nights. Next would be no flat tires, pitchfork use and no work that requires a shovel or a mechanics tool box.

Of course all those dream resolutions come because the thought is-- if you are going to make yourself promises you can’t keep, may as well make big ones.

I would like to resolve to be more disciplined with my work, smile more often when I’d really rather not, and first look to find praise for someone or something before I find criticism.  I would like to be a better person today than I thought possible yesterday and set a higher standard for tomorrow.

I resolve to not mention the words exercise, diet, or svelte in the same sentence with my name. Health and beauty should be a natural daily process, not a resolution.

I will continue to remind myself that January 1 is the day after December 31 and the day before January 2. Nothing more. I will strive to remember that everyday is a gift, tomorrow is never promised, and that the people in my life are precious.

I live an abundant blessed life and want to never fail to recognize that.  But most of all I want to resolve to be resolute-- firm in purpose, belief and unshakeable determination.

May this next year bring to you all of what you need and even some of what you want.

Julie is embracing all of 2017 and can be reached for comment at

A Baby Changes Everything

A Baby Changes Everything
A Brighter Shade of White
The Babe, the son of Mary
By Stephen L. Wilmeth

            I sat in the pickup in the rain day before yesterday watching a new born calf struggle with the wet and the cold of his new existence. He had been shoved into a world much more hostile than the security of his mama. His surroundings belied his perfect red coat as dazzling as the purified scriptural white according to the book of Daniel.
            His mother was there lending her support to his predicament. He had nursed and had received a good dose of her all important first milk, her added contribution to his start. He staggered around as the rain continued. There was no way he could be comfortable, but the little fellow had grit. He showed strength that comes only from the miracle of life within.
            My reaction was the same as always witnessing that scene. “God, please bless that baby … Bless all babies.”
            A Baby Changes Everything
            “Where do we go from here?”
            That is the question every parent asks with the first sight of the first child. There are few things that alter life more. Nothing is the same if the magnitude and the responsibility of the event is properly accepted. Life is forever changed and the truth is your centered life should never be the same. Your existence remains a priority, but a transitioned priority.
            That young cow with her first calf is no different. Her existence only became more complex as she now eats and provides for two living creatures. In the nature of this holy morning, the option is mine to dwell only upon the matters of which such shepherds guard and angels sing. Hence, this message is one of great hope. There is enough peril in our world, and, for a few hours, our gifts are not just reminders of incense, gold, and myrrh, but of salvation and actual hope on this earth.
            We see it in the eyes of every baby. We see it in the demonstration of strength that comes from within and the needed influences and caretaking from without.
            Indeed, a baby changes everything. It did then, and it does now.
            Joy, joy for Christ is born,
            the babe, the Son of Mary.
            It is time for Christians to rejoice and to resume our role as stewards of our surroundings. We, too, stand in a rain storm. As believers, we respect His creation, but, more importantly, we stand in awe of Him, our Creator. Truly ours is not a religion of violence, but a religion of peace and hope and we must begin to live and act in that manner.
             Hail, hail the Word made flesh,
             the Babe, the Son of Mary.
            On this very morning, this most holy of days, we have a choice and a renewed chance to make our way of life the standard from which the silent word is pleading. Nails and spears may pierce us too, but he bore a cross for our salvation and we must recognize that our stewardship is just and respectful of His monumental gift.
            It is time to be wise and brutally honest, and it took only a baby to remind us of that.
            Daniel lectured us that many shall be purified made white as fresh linen, and refined, but the wicked shall continue to do wickedly, and they shall not understand. It will be the wise that understand.
            It is time for a brighter shade of white.

            Stephen L. Wilmeth is a rancher from southern New Mexico. “Merry Christmas!”

Baxter Black - How do you know it’s Christmas?

So how do you know it’s Christmas?

’Cause the sheep can always tell.
They follow a little tradition and have for a long spell.

On Christmas Eve around midnight, the sheep, wherever they are, all rise in quiet unison and fixate on a star.

And from their stirring comes a sound, a chuckling tra, la, la.
That weaves and builds itself into a soft melodious baaa.

Which carries like a dove’s lament when nights are very still.
As if they’re calling for someone beyond a yonder hill.

The legend herders passed on down attributes this tradition to one late night in Bethlehem. A heavenly petition.

Wherein a host of angels came and lured them with a song.
The herders left in haste, they say, and stayed gone all night long.

Well, sheep don’t do too well alone. They’ve never comprehended
that on that night they waited up, the world was upended.

So, now when daylight shortens up and nights get long and cold
I make my check at midnight like we’ve done since days of old.

Lee Pitts: The Pitts grazing system

I’ll probably never get the credit I truly deserve for developing a grazing system like Allan Savory did but I too figured out a long time ago how to double my carrying capacity and improve my pastures while at the same time reducing my expenditures.

I just never fixed any fence.

If I was smart I’d start giving speeches and having schools to teach ranchers my revolutionary grazing system.

One of the biggest advantages of my system is you’ll start to see improvement immediately. Almost overnight my cows started leaking out of the landscape as if they were on the dodge from the tallow man. And most of them were. By feeding my cows the neighbor’s grass I was able to triple the size of my cow herd. The only problem was that if they ever decided to come home all at the same time I didn’t have the infrastructure to handle them and was forced to sell off a load or two.

These surplus cows became part of a statewide, clandestine trading ring. (I should have been locked up for the great trades I made.) I would sell my old cows to my neighbors for only a couple pennies less than beef, knowing all the while that the cows only had one more calf left in them at best. Then they would get six calves in five years out of every cow before recycling them for twice what they paid me. I have one friend who has still got cows I sold him ten years ago for pennies on the dollar that bring a good calf to the branding fire every year.

Through all the years of swapping cows back and forth there has only been one minor disagreement between myself and my trading partners. My good friend and neighbor, John, insisted that one particular cow that had taken up semi-permanent residence on his ranch was, in fact, my cow. This I hotly contested. The last time she left my place she was in such a hurry she didn’t take her real name with her but John has since affectionately nicknamed her “The Pitts Cow.” Since that time the name has been applied to every ugly, wild cow that comes along and I blame the vet we all share for spreading the malady to all the ranches in his trade area.

Being trained in the Pitts grazing method, the bag of brands known as The Pitts Cow naturally had picked up some bad habits. Just like a long haul trucker or a livestock field man she just wouldn’t stay home. This John would not tolerate. You see, John operates in a different fashion than me and my other neighbors. He actually feeds his cows when there isn’t any grass, doesn’t let his bulls stay with the cows all year, fixes broken fence wires and culls a cow if she doesn’t calve. Can you imagine?

Ranch Radio Song Of The Day #1754

Our gospel tune on this Christmas Day is While Shepherds Watched Their Flocks by the Louvin Brothers.  The tune is on their album Christmas With The Louvin Brothers

Friday, December 23, 2016

Merry Christmas to...

...all who are foolish enough to read this blog.

Add reindeer, Bigfoot to Endangered Species

After reviewing the report released on Wednesday by the Endangered Species Coalition, entitled “Removing the Walls to Recovery: Top 10 Species Priorities for a New Administration,” the Public Lands Council and the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association announced today several additional species overlooked by the report.  Since a gaping lack of scientific evidence does not appear to be a barrier to entry on this particular list, nor does a dearth of hard data, PLC and NCBA propose adding two additional imperiled and overlooked species: the Western Sasquatch and the flying North Pole (Santa’s) reindeer. The Western Sasquatch is of great concern to enthusiasts and reality television viewers throughout the country, yet is altogether ignored by conservationists. Lovers of the Sasquatch are reduced to searching for footprints and other trace evidence of the great creature or waiting for new updates to the Netflix library.  Similarly, it is believed that only nine of Santa’s reindeer exist today, and warming temperatures increase the impending threat to their habitat. The extinction of these flying reindeer, all of whom have been affectionately named, would be a great loss for children and elves alike. The reindeer are truly a beloved part of our country’s great history, and their exclusion from the Endangered Species Coalition’s list is tantamount to a war on release

Funny Christmas carols - Larry The Cable Guy

U.S. Trade Representative schedules hearing regarding EU beef ban

Acting on the request of the U.S. beef industry, the U.S. Trade Representative has scheduled a public hearing and is seeking public comments in connection with the European Union’s ban on most U.S. beef products. The EU’s ban on U.S. beef is not based on sound science and discriminates against American beef farmers, ranchers, and producers. If the trade action resumes, the United States would reinstate industry-supported tariffs on a list of EU products imported into the United States. USTR is particularly interested in comments addressed to the possible effects of reinstatement on U.S. consumers and small- or medium-sized businesses. "The WTO determined that the European Union's ban on U.S. beef imports violates its international trade obligations," said Ambassador Michael Froman. "The EU has failed to live up to assurances to address this issue, and it's now time to take action. Today's action holds the EU accountable and is an important step in encouraging the Commission to come back to the table to ensure that American ranchers have access to Europe's market and that European consumers have better access to high-quality U.S. beef." In 1998, the EU lost a case at the WTO for banning American beef. In 2009, the U.S. negotiated an agreement to allow a modest degree of market access for specially-produced beef that meets the EU's standards, but that agreement has not worked as intended. The European Commission had argued that this issue should be resolved through T-TIP. However, given that the EU stated in September that they did not view the completion of T-TIP this year to be possible, it is now time to take action...more

Family of bears likely killed from eating poisonous plant

Game commission officials say a poisonous ornamental shrub likely killed a black bear and her three cubs found dead on a church parking lot in northeastern Pennsylvania. The bears were found on the lot of St. Monica’s church in West Wyoming, Pennsylvania, on Dec. 6. The Pennsylvania Game Commission says the bears ate the leaves and seeds of an English yew plant before they died. The plant is highly toxic to people and most animals if ingested. Game Commission veterinarian Justin Brown says he’s not aware of another case of black bear deaths from yew poisoning. Officials say the 300-pound sow and her cubs were known to frequent populated areas, where yew typically grow, and the bears were likely foraging for food. They say the bears likely died suddenly.  AP

A black bear boom has townfolk wondering how they'd get along with grizzlies

THREE RIVERS, Calif.  It was two years back, toward the end of summer, that the bears came. Families of them. Droves of them. More of them than most residents of this small Tulare County town of 2,500 ever had the pleasure of watching frolic in the Kaweah River or the frustration of seeing topple trash cans and break into chicken coops. Last year, though, the bear hoedown ended, leaving people here to wonder where so many of the creatures had gone.  Some who live here on the western edge of Sequoia National Park say that question amounts to an ursine murder mystery — that unnamed villains illegally killed dozens of these relatively docile black bears. And that widespread but unsubstantiated allegation has added intensity to an ongoing debate about whether the time is ripe to reintroduce bigger and more aggressive California Grizzly bears into the wilds of the Sierra Nevada, including areas in and around Sequoia—a possibility simultaneously under study by UC Santa Barbara geographer Peter Alagona and the Center for Biological Diversity...An oak grove in Greg Dixon’s backyard, for example, became an impromptu outdoor theater. Visitors yanked out lawn chairs, cameras and cold beers and watched up to seven bears at a time lounge on tree limbs, splash in the river and stuff their faces with fallen acorns, spitting out the shells. “People went goo-goo over all the bears hanging out at my house,” Dixon said. “We all took hundreds of pictures.” But bears also broke into cabins and vehicles around town, ripped up roof tiles to get at acorns stashed by woodpeckers, threatened livestock and charged people who got too close. Today, more than 25,000 black bears — with narrow heads and small ears and weighing up to 350 pounds -- roam wild in California, state wildlife authorities say. But there hasn’t been a wild grizzly in California in almost 100 years...more

Agriculture tells the history of the Rio Grande Valley

WESLACO — As the 1800s rolled into the 1900s, agriculture in the Lower Rio Grande Valley was in the midst of a major makeover, according to local historians and agricultural experts. It was changing from a livestock economy to one of irrigated farming that would eventually fuel unprecedented growth in South Texas, said Dr. Luís Ribera, a Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service agricultural economist in College Station. “The height of the Spanish colonial livestock economy in the Valley lasted roughly from 1770 to 1900,” Ribera said. “It was too dry to grow crops in large quantities, so the economy was based on selling standing cattle and cattle by-products to Mexico.” Ranches sprouted and flourished in the mid-1700s because of Jose de Escandón, a Spaniard sent to the area by Spanish authorities in Mexico City. He and his followers, the Valley’s pioneers, mapped and settled the fertile region on both sides of the Rio Grande, then known as Seno Mexicano, said Karen Fort, a local historian and co-author of "Images of America: Hidalgo County, Texas." “Escandón succeeded in his task far beyond expectations in this rugged country and renamed it Nuevo Santander after his native Santander Province in Spain,” she said. “Six thousand Spaniards answered the call to settle the land here, and within five years, Escandón had established 24 villages, 15 missions and 20 ranches, complete with almost 90,000 head of cattle.” That laid the foundation for the settlement of the Lower Rio Grande Valley and the ranching empire that would dominate the land for the next 150 years, Fort said.

Lessons Zinke can learn from Interior secretaries’ successes and failures

Montana Republican Rep. Ryan Zinke awaits the chance to tell the senators who will consider his nomination why President-elect Donald Trump made a good call picking him to lead the Department of the Interior.

I hope he reaches out to former secretaries from both parties for advice. I have been lucky enough to have interviewed all but one of the Interior leaders since former Idaho Gov. Cecil Andrus held the job in the 1970s.

Zinke can learn from their experiences, good and bad. He says he will govern in the tradition of President Theodore Roosevelt, who advanced both preservation and wise use of our resources.
Idaho’s Andrus led in that very tradition.

When Andrus told President Jimmy Carter to use the Antiquities Act of 1906 to set aside 56 million acres of Alaska as national monuments, the president was incredulous. “Can I do that?” Carter asked.
“You have the authority, sir,” answered Andrus, according to his memoir.

“Let’s do it,” Carter said.

The monuments forced Alaska’s congressional delegation to cut a deal on the 1980 Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act, setting aside 103 million acres as national parks, wildlife refuges, wild and scenic rivers, and wilderness areas.

The Andrus lesson: Have the ear of the president, work with Congress, but also be bold.

Barker also presents lessons from Watt, Lujan and Babbitt.

Notice too the leverage the Antiquities Act gives the Executive Branch.  In the example given the act was used to "force" Congress to set-aside 103 million acres. The Antiquities Act of 1906 was a tool granted to the Executive Branch by the Congress. Imagine that you loaned a tool to an associate and this associate would on a regular basis knock you in the head with the borrowed tool. Rather than taking a beating every four years or so wouldn't you call in the loan and put an end to the violence? And for the same reason, why hasn't Congress revoked this authority? What a foolish situation.

Wyden, Merkley Push For Oregon Counties To Receive Federal Timber Payments

US Senators Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley on Thursday urged federal officials to make much-needed federal timber sales payments as quickly as possible to Oregon counties in need of funding for schools, roads and law enforcement. In letters to Interior Secretary Sally Jewell and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, the senators noted that congressional failure to reauthorize Secure Rural Schools (SRS) funding puts a premium on ensuring the federal timber payments are sent in a timely fashion to Oregon counties. Counties no longer receiving an SRS payment as of Jan. 1 will instead receive payment under a federal act that provides them 25 percent of the federal timber sale revenue from national forestlands generated in each county, th  e senators wrote Vilsack. In 2015 when SRS was not reauthorized until after the 25-percent payments were made, the 25-percent payment was $50 million nationwide compared to about $300 million from SRS the previous year. “Without the certainty of SRS payments, schools, libraries and jails close, roads go unpaved and become unsafe, mental and physical health services are scaled back or even ended and fewer and fewer law enforcement officers patrol larger and larger areas,’’ Wyden and Merkley wrote. “We have talked to counties in Oregon experiencing these hardships, which will be made even worse if the remaining 25 percent payments are delayed.”...more

And some want to depend on the feds for the long term  growth and health of their community. They make a grand and reliable business partner, don't they. 

All that collaboration can result in "schools, libraries and jails close, roads go unpaved and become unsafe, mental and physical health services are scaled back or even ended and fewer and fewer law enforcement officers patrol larger and larger areas.’’

What ever the feds giveth, they can taketh, and over time they taketh a helluva lot more than they giveth.

In the case above it was determined by their business partner that a subspecies of owl was more important than all those schools, libraries, roads and jails, and that the health of the owl subspecies took precedence over the health and safety of the citizenry. 

Live by executive action, die by executive action

By Robert Romano

Whatever can be done with executive action can be undone by executive action.

That was one of the messages outgoing President Barack Obama had for his successor, President-elect Donald Trump in an interview with NPR, where Obama said, correctly, that “If he wants to reverse some of those rules, that’s part of the democratic process. That’s, you know, why I tell people to vote — because it turns out elections mean something.”

So, suddenly, upon assuming office, Trump could start immediately rescinding controversial executive actions, whether Obama’s executive amnesty for millions of illegal immigrants with U.S.-born children, or his decision to close the Guantanamo Bay detention facility.

In total, Obama has issued 260 executive orders. Those could all be rescinded on day one, as there is no legal requirement they be retained.

There’s also a bevy of regulations, including the 2009 Carbon Endangerment Finding by the Environmental Protection Agency and its corollaries, the new and existing power plant rules, that constituted the agency’s expansive war on coal electricity.

...Those could be rescinded by the agencies that issued them, through the process under the Administrative Procedures Act, which could take a couple of years. Best to get started right away.
There is also the Congressional Review Act (CRA), which gives Congress the power to roll back with simple majorities regulations within 60 legislative days of being implemented. That goes back to June, and according to the Heritage Foundation, includes “many dozens of major rules [that] could be vulnerable to a CRA challenge. These include, among others: Rules under the Dodd–Frank financial regulation law, Sick leave for federal contractors, Offshore drilling rules, and Energy mandates for home appliances.”

...Then there is Obama’s executive action to indefinitely seal off much of the outer continental shelf in the Atlantic and Arctic Oceans from oil and gas drilling. Obama officials are bragging that this is one action that cannot be undone by executive action, although there is a clear process under the law for issuing new offshore drilling leases.

But even if an attempt to undo Obama’s action to block drilling via executive action got caught up in federal court, Congress could always just defund it or pass new legislation repealing the provision he invoked.

Speaking of which, Congress could always defund, or prohibit the use of funds to implement regulations and any other executive action. So, where all else fails — if for example litigants manage to preserve certain regulations and other actions via federal court mandates — there is always the budget and the power of the purse where Congress can intervene.

With that in mind, Congress could act preemptively, and defund what it can in the April continuing resolution, particularly controversial items the left is likely to sue over, to strengthen the President’s hand.


Robert Romano is the senior editor of Americans for Limited Government.