Saturday, May 27, 2017

Forest Service Owns ‘National Junkyard’ of Thousands of Unused Buildings

The Forest Service oversees thousands of buildings that are unused, many that are falling apart, full of mold, and pose safety hazards, according to a new audit. The inspector general for the U.S. Department of Agriculture found that the Forest Service has compiled over $5 billion worth of repairs to buildings, roads, dams, and trails it operates. Officials admit they are becoming a "national junkyard" by overseeing thousands of decrepit buildings the government does not need. "During our fieldwork, we observed [Forest Service] buildings that were not inspected as well as buildings that forest officials stated had structural issues, mold growth, wide-spread rodent droppings, and other health and safety concerns including 20 buildings with concerns so severe that officials referred to them as ‘red tagged,'" the inspector general reported. "Red tag" refers to buildings and structures that are so unsafe they are closed. Some buildings had asbestos, and one residential building observed by auditors had a 15-foot hole in the roof, as well as mold and fire damage. "As a result, unsafe structures can pose health and safety risks, such as hantavirus or other concerns, to [Forest Service] employees and the public," the inspector general said. Auditors surveyed a sample of 182 dams the Forest Service oversees, and found 76 percent either had no documentation or did not receive required safety inspections. Seventy-seven percent of dams considered to be high hazards "did not receive required safety inspections within the last 5 years." Sixty-one percent had no emergency action plan, and some that did had not been updated since 1982. Dams are considered high hazards if their potential failure is "expected to cause the loss of one or more human lives."...more

Smokey management par excellence? Not hardly 

For your weekend reading, the report is embedded below:

Zinke fills in Interior staff despite key leadership gaps

The Interior Department announced Friday that it is filling in key support staff, while still missing official high-level nominations by President Trump to lead them. The only senior official to be named by the president, other than Secretary Ryan Zinke, is David Bernhardt as deputy secretary, who still needs to be confirmed by the Senate. Energy and Natural Resources Committee Chairwoman Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, said Thursday that she will hold a vote on Berhardt's confirmation at the committee level when the Senate returns after its week-long Memorial Day recess. But then he must be voted on by the full Senate. It has been tough to move political appointees through the Senate, but on top of that Trump has been slow to announce who will fill key posts in many of the offices that Zinke will rely on to move the Trump agenda ahead. The announcements made Friday do not require Senate confirmation. Scott Hommel, a decorated Marine, will serve as Zinke's chief of staff. Caroline Boulton, who served on Zinke's staff when he was a member of Congress, will be Zinke's special assistant, along with Natalie Davis, who served on Trump's inaugural committee. Laura Keehner Rigas, a former official who served under the George W. Bush administration, will be communications director for the agency...more

Trump Might Try To Take The Ax To National Monuments And These People Are Not Here For It

But if the Trump administration does ultimately go after the monuments, the president may end up expending significant political capital in a battle with dubious outcomes. Some also expect protests on the ground. Advocates for multiple monuments under review spoke to BuzzFeed News about how they anticipate responding to any White House effort to curtail what's already been established...Native Americans groups are already gearing up for a legal fight over Bears Ears National Monument in Utah's remote San Juan County, Jonah Yellowman, a board member of the Navajo nonprofit Utah Diné Bikéyah, told BuzzFeed News. President Obama created the monument in December. "If they decide to rescind or shrink, or whatever they're going to do, we're going to go into a lawsuit," he said. "Or whatever it takes." Eric Descheenie, a member of the Navajo Nation and the Arizona House of Representatives, told BuzzFeed News that native leaders are currently involved coordinating a campaign to raise awareness about the monument review. Still, he believes the "writing is on the wall" for Bears Ears. "I think the more level-headed individuals within the administration will recommend a significant downsize, a shrinkage of the monument," he said. "The tribes stand ready to immediately file a lawsuit." Attempts at changing Bears Ears may also prompt a response on the ground. Descheenie said that while demonstrations haven't yet been organized, action by the Trump administration could be "enough to galvanize people's intentions to protest." "If it means congregating in or around bears ears, sure," he said. Terry Tempest Williams, a prominent Utah author and activist, raised the stakes even further, writing earlier this month in the New York Times that Bears Ears "could very well become another Standing Rock in both desecration and resistance."...more

Bear Eyes monument status generates 57K public comments

Tens of thousands of people from across the U.S. have weighed in about whether the new Bears Ears National Monument should be preserved, downsized or rescinded, confirming the monument's center stage position in a review of 27 monuments ordered by President Donald Trump. About 57,000 submissions with comments mentioning the 1.3-million acre (5,300 square kilometers) monument in southeastern Utah had been submitted to a federal government website by Friday evening on the final day of a two-week public comment period that is part of U.S. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke's review of the monument designated by President Barack Obama. That accounts for more than half of the 113,000 comments submitted so far about all the monuments under review, which includes monuments created by three former presidents on large swaths of land home to ancient cliff dwellings, towering Sequoias, deep, canyons and oceans habitats where seals, whales and sea turtles roam. Some Bears Ears comment submissions include conservation groups that compiled thousands of individual comments and made one submission, meaning the actual number of people offering their opinion could be much higher...more

Friday, May 26, 2017

A-10 Celebrates This Weekend

No doubt this cowboy has been celebratin' for quite a spell.  If sober, I'm sure he would've hollered Yee-Hah instead of Hee-Yah. LOL

Horse Diapers on Trial

Russellville, KY – 13 members of the conservative Swartzentruber Amish are heading to trial after a judge set their court date for August 2nd. The members of the Amish community are accused of refusing to obey a city ordinance which requires them to put waste collection bags, or diapers, on their horses when traveling on the street. The Swartzentruber Amish believe placing the bags on their horses would be a violation of their religious beliefs, and are fighting the ordinance based on religious freedom. They believe the ordinance specifically targets their religion, but the city says the ordinance is necessary for public safety and is applied to everyone equally. There are 37 lawsuits pending against the 13 Amish. “I’m going to be asking for 37 separate trials,” attorney Travis Lock, who is representing the Amish, told reporters. The penalty for violating the horse diaper ordinance is typically a fine and court costs, but previously Amish have refused to pay the fine and have been placed in jail. Amos Mast is one of those who was sent to jail for refusing to pay a diaper fine. “I’m a farmer, I don’t travel much because I just stay on the farm,” Mast said. “There’s times that I need to be out (on the road), so we just go and face what happens.” The ordinance is facing legal challenges in federal court. link

Ranch Radio Song of the Day #1855

TGIFF! Its Fiddle Friday and from his 1970 album Hoedown here’s Chubby Wise fiddlin’ Long John.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Drone Journalist Faces 7 Years in Prison for Filming Dakota Pipeline Protests

A citizen journalist in Morton County, North Dakota is facing up to seven years in jail for flying a drone over the North Dakota Pipeline protests. In October, Aaron Turgeon was arrested by Morton County Police and was charged with a felony count of Reckless Endangerment, a misdemeanor count of Reckless Endangerment, and a misdemeanor count of Physical Obstruction of a Government Function, according to court documents obtained by Motherboard. Together, he faces up to seven years in court if found guilty. His court case is Thursday. For weeks, Turgeon (who also goes by "Prolific the Rapper") documented the North Dakota Access Pipeline protests for several Facebook groups that livestreamed and posted photos and videos about the movement. Several of these aerial videos documented police shooting protesters with water cannons and tear gas canisters...more 

Update: Turgeon was found not guilty on all counts Thursday evening.

Monument designations don't affect livestock grazing (A misguided LTE)

 An excerpt from the letter-to-editor:

It’s hard to beat Ron Gibson's op-ed for being more irrelevant to the issue of whether Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante national monuments deserve to continue as part of our nation’s treasure of monuments (“Farm Bureau applauds monument review,” May 18-24, 2017 Moab Sun News). As president of the Utah Farm Bureau, Mr. Gibson understandably focuses on livestock grazing, but monument status doesn’t affect that. Both monument proclamations indicate that the BLM (Bears Ears and Grand Staircase) and Forest Service (Bears Ears) will continue to manage livestock grazing as one of a number of multiple uses. You could hardly graze the desert Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument more: 96.3 percent is active cattle allotments. That percentage is close to the same in Bears Ears, with 100 percent of the Manti-La Sal National Forest portion in active cattle allotments, and likely near that on the BLM portion.

The writer focuses on "active cattle allotments". I don't know if this is done out of ignorance, or with an intent to deceive. In either case it totally misses the point. Let's use Leland Pollock, a county commissioner and a rancher as an example. When Zinke visited the Grand Staircase-Escalante, Pollock told him that prior to the monument being designated he ran 260 head on his allotment, but since the designation he had been cut back to 64 head. The difference had been placed in "suspension" and still appeared in BLM records, but he can't use them. His allotment is still "active" but is no longer an economically viable unit. An that, says Pollock, is "how the federal government is getting rid of the rancher on the monument."

Whether an allotment is "active" or not is irrelevant. It's the number of livestock that is allowed to run on that allotment that is the determining factor.

2016 Southwestern U.S. wildfire report now available

Wildfires burned nearly 600,000 acres last year in a three-state region of the Southwest U.S., more than double the number of acres burned in each of the previous two years, according to a new report published this week detailing the 2016 fire season. The report is the fourth in a series of annual overviews made available from the Southwest Fire Science Consortium and the Ecological Restoration Institute intended to serve as a summary for past years and allow for a comparison with previous fires. Specifically, the report describes effects from the 12 largest fires — each larger than 8,000 acres — in Arizona, New Mexico and western Texas...more

The report is embedded below:

Rangers Overwhelmed by Trashed Out Campsites

The U.S. Forest Service says it's getting photos of public campsites littered with trash right before Memorial weekend, an unofficial start to camping season. "We've heard from multiple people that there are places in the forest that don't feel safe anymore or it's not desirable to go there anymore," Chamise Kramer said. "...Because of the level of mess, broken glass, evidence of drug use." Kramer said the campgrounds that seem to need the most cleaning are free to the public, and further south from the lake, like the Cook and Green Campground. As the weather heats up, rangers have noticed more people further back along the Applegate river, and noticed larger messes left behind. "Year after year, it feels like it's getting consistently worse, there's just more trash being left behind" Former Forest Ranger Dylan Goldey said. A few people have taken it upon themselves to volunteer help and get some of those public lands cleared, but the forest service advises against that. "We really appreciate the help, but we don't want people getting hurt by needles or anything else they might find. Telling us where the problem is will be very helpful."  link

They can't, or won't, take care of it themselves and they advise against volunteers taking it upon themselves. So the camps remained trashed out. And yet, if you mention transferring these lands to the state, all of a sudden they become "our national treasures", or "crowned jewels" or part of our "national heritage". 

And by the way, we in the border states have federal lands that look the same. Only they are being trashed out by the cartels and their smuggling of human cargo and drugs.

Ending Obama EPA's ban on Alaska's Pebble Mine is right for American energy

The Environmental Protection Agency is again drawing the ire of environmentalists, this time by lifting an Obama-era ban on development of Alaska’s Pebble Mine. It's part of a dramatic pivot driven by the Trump administration, with rule changes, proposals and executive orders all intended to realign U.S. public lands policy with the White House’s development-minded approach. If the changes are implemented successfully, the administration has the opportunity to create much-needed jobs in the western half of the country. And if the Pebble Mine is any example, it could finally unchain the United States from what has been a dangerous dependency on critical mineral imports. The proposed Pebble Mine in southwestern Alaska would bring to market 6.44 billion metric tons of copper, gold, molybdenum and silver, four commodities in the group known as “critical and strategic minerals.” These minerals are critical for the manufacture of goods as varied as medical devices, agricultural products, and electronics, and contribute to industries that added $2.78 trillion to gross domestic product last year. Critical and strategic minerals get their designation because they’re not just economically vital; they’re also essential to national defense. The Pentagon maintains 37 mineral commodities as part of the Defense National Stockpile. As recently as 1990, the United States was the world’s largest producer of mineral resources. Geologically speaking, we’re rich. The American West hosts one of the largest, most diverse and most unusually concentrated mineral belts in the world, extending from Colorado to the Pacific Ocean. That geological terrain hosts world-class deposits of chromium, copper, fluorine, gold, molybdenum, platinum and uranium, to name just a few. But quite a different trend has emerged over the last three decades. Earlier this year, the U.S. Geological Survey reported that, of 88 important minerals they track, the United States is more than 25 percent import-dependent for 62 of them. For 20 of those minerals, the United States is 100 percent reliant on imports. Many of those 20 key minerals are absolutely critical to the economy and national defense. The risks are underscored when one considers just how reliant the country has become on imports specifically from Russia and China. China, by far the world’s largest source of minerals, has already used its rare earth mineral wealth as a diplomatic weapon. As Chinese statesman Deng Xiaoping said in 1992: “The Middle East has its oil, China has rare earth.”...more

Farmer Faces $2.8 Million Fine For Plowing His Own Field

A farmer faces trial in federal court this summer and a $2.8 million fine for failing to get a permit to plow his field and plant wheat in Tehama County. A lawyer for Duarte Nursery said the case is important because it could set a precedent requiring other farmers to obtain costly, time-consuming permits just to plow. “The case is the first time that we’re aware of that says you need to get a (U.S. Army Corps of Engineers) permit to plow to grow crops,” said Anthony Francois, a lawyer for the Pacific Legal Foundation. The libertarian-leaning nonprofit fights for private property rights and limited government. “We’re not going to produce much food under those kinds of regulations,” Francois said. However, U.S. District Judge Kimberly J. Mueller agreed with the Army Corps in a judgment issued in June. A trial, in which the U.S. Attorney’s Office asks for $2.8 million in civil penalties, is set for August...more

Ranch Radio Song of the Day

 Didn't have time to make a video, but instead bring you this treat from radiobob805.

 Willie Nelson and Asleep at the Wheel toured the country playing this great old Western Swing. Here I have added Bob Wills and Milton Browns' original records to the live performance by Willie and the Wheel. It's a little naughty. Oh, You Pretty Woman.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Fischer Reintroduces Bill to Lift EPA On-Farm Fuel Storage Burden

U.S. Senator Deb Fischer (R-Neb.), a member of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee (EPW), this week reintroduced legislation to provide regulatory relief for Nebraska farmers and ranchers. The bill, known as the Farmers Undertake Environmental Land Stewardship (FUELS) Act, builds on her past efforts to modify costly EPA regulations that could negatively affect ag producers with on-farm fuel storage. Across Nebraska and our nation, ag producers store fuel in aboveground tanks on their property. Often, this is because they live miles from the towns where they can refuel. A regulation intended for major oil refineries, known as the Spill Prevention, Control, and Countermeasure (SPCC) rule, would affect the amount of fuel producers can store on their land. It would force families to make costly upgrades to fuel storage tanks and would also impose heavy fines if these tanks go over the on-farm fuel limit exemption mandated by the federal government...more

Farm groups denounce Trump budget

Here goes our rural brethren, decrying the budget cuts.

American Farm Bureau Federation

 "It would gut federal crop insurance, one of the nation's most important farm safety-net programs," Duvall said. "It would drastically reshape important voluntary conservation programs and negatively impact consumer confidence in critical meat and poultry inspection." "This proposal would hamper the viability of plant and animal security programs at our borders and undermine the nation's grain quality and market information systems. It would stunt rural America's economic growth by eliminating important utility programs and other rural development programs.
"Clearly, this budget fails agriculture and rural America."

According to the AFBF, the budget, "guts',"negatively impact", "hamper", "undermine", "stunt" and "fails". 

National Farmers Union

"The president's proposed budget is an assault on the programs and personnel that provide vital services, research, and a safety net to America's family farmers, rural residents and consumers," said Roger Johnson, president of the Democratic-leaning National Farmers Union. "It is deeply disappointing that the president would propose such cuts, especially in the midst of a farm crisis that has family farmers and ranchers enduring a drastic, four-year slide in farm prices and a 50 percent drop in net farm income."

I was wrong in my prediction. The NFU statement is moderate compared to that of the allegedly more conservative AFBF.

 American Soybean Association

"By shredding our farm safety net, slashing critical agricultural research and conservation initiatives, and hobbling our access to foreign markets, this budget is a blueprint for how to make already difficult times in rural America even worse," said Ron Moore, American Soybean Association president and a soybean farmer from Roseville, Ill. 

And on and on it goes. You can read them all by going here.

Trump still deciding on Paris climate agreement

President Trump is still deciding whether the United States will stay in the Paris climate change agreement. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson told reporters aboard Air Force One that the topic of the Paris pact came up in Trump's and Tillerson's Wednesday meeting with Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin, following the president's meeting with Pope Francis. “The president indicated we’re still thinking about that, that he hasn’t made a final decision. He, I think, told both Cardinal Parolin and also told [Italian] Prime Minister [Paolo] Gentiloni that this is something that he would be taking up for a decision when we return from this trip,” Tillerson told reporters en route to Brussels...more

Western group sues Interior for documents on monument designations

A government watchdog group is suing the Interior Department for any records relating to five national monuments named under President Barack Obama, arguing the public deserves to see just how much the Obama administration solicited input on the designations despite what Republicans are saying now. The Western Values Project, based in Montana, filed suit Wednesday in the federal court for the District of Columbia, asking a judge to force Interior to turn over a slew of documents the group had requested in January but that Interior has yet to produce. The group says Republicans have been pushing the false narrative that the Obama administration didn't invite public input into the designation of Bears Ears National Monument and four others, and the documents will prove that the Interior department under Obama asked for and received a deluge of comments. The Western Values Project filed a federal freedom of information request Jan. 19, asking for any "scientific studies, scientific data, agency studies, agency management plans, maps, photos, references, testimony, public comments, congressional input, legal analysis or other such information used to develop the monument designations since January 1, 2014."...more

BLM Proposes Unrestricted Sale of Unadopted Wild Horses

The Bureau of Land Management has released their proposed 2018 budget, which a proposed $70.7 million for management of the Wild Horse and Burro program, a reduction of $10 million. Hidden in the proposed budget is a single sentence that could end the life of nearly 50,000 horses. The proposed budget calls for a management plan “including humane euthanasia and unrestricted sale of certain excess animals.” The unrestricted sale of excess horses would most certainly mean they would be sold for slaughter. Whether the BLM is seeking funding to humanely euthanize the excess horses, or is simply planning on selling them to the highest bidder, remains to be seen...more

Cartel Smugglers, Migrants Growing More Violent Against Border Patrol Agents

Sinaloa Cartel-linked smugglers and migrants are growing more violent against U.S. Border Patrol agents in the Tucson sector as penalties for their crimes stiffen. Realizing that being caught now means almost certain prosecution and incarceration, the smugglers and migrants are increasingly becoming violent with Border Patrol agents in remote border regions in efforts to escape and evade justice. Border Patrol Agent Art Del Cueto, speaking to Breitbart Texas in his role as National Border Patrol Council (NBPC) spokesman, stated, “The smugglers are definitely becoming more violent with our agents. They now try to evade arrest and even use force to get away from us where during the Obama years they would joke with us and not mind being caught. They knew, back then, that they would get away with violating our laws.” Agent Del Cueto continued, “We are talking about significant force and violence being used against our agents. Very recently, one smuggler slammed a large rock into the side of an agent’s head.” The growing violent tendencies are not limited to the cartel’s drug smugglers, according to Agent Del Cueto. “Even the illegal aliens who aren’t smuggling dope are growing more violent as they now face consequences for illegally entering. Before they would be let go the next day or so, now they face incarceration for illegally entering. They are willing to do anything possible to evade us.”...more

House approves bill seeking to upend EPA pesticide rule

The House on Wednesday passed a Republican-backed measure reversing an Environmental Protection Agency requirement that those spraying pesticides on or near rivers and lakes file for a permit. The chamber voted largely along party lines to approve the Reducing Regulatory Burdens Act of 2017. In the preceding floor debate, the bill's supporters said the rule requiring a permit under the Clean Water Act before spraying pesticides is burdensome and duplicative. EPA already regulates pesticide safety under a different law that gives the agency authority to place restrictions on when and where spraying can occur. The current EPA rule was put in place after a lawsuit was filed by environmentalists and commercial fishermen. They claimed the agency was failing to adequately prevent pesticide contamination in protected waters. A federal appeals court agreed in 2009, forcing EPA to start requiring the permits. Bill sponsor Rep. Bob Gibbs, R-Ohio, said the permit requirement places an unnecessary burden on farmers and local health officials fighting mosquito-borne diseases. The bill "eliminates a duplicative, expensive, unnecessary permitting process that helps free the resources for our states, counties and local governments better to combat the spread of Zika, West Nile virus and other diseases," said Gibbs, a member of the House Agriculture Committee...more

Spending Cuts in President Trump’s 2018 Budget

An Abuse of the Antiquities Act

by Myles Culbertson

The Western Conservationist Movement is a consortium of organizations sharing common concerns about the unnecessary removal of large masses federal lands to restricted status under the guise of national monuments or wilderness.  In the case of the Organ Mountains–Desert Peaks declaration under the Antiquities Act, a number of critical questions were ignored and otherwise deflected, to be dealt with after the fact.  Not unexpectedly, none of these questions were addressed once the half-million acre monument was formalized.

Grazing in this part of the country has been an economic and cultural phenomenon since the era of settlement that followed Spanish exploration of the region.  Ranchers over the past several decades have enjoyed a cooperative partnership with the Bureau of Land Management that has demonstrably protected and preserved the beauty, diversity and sensitive ecology of these lands.  History confirms that, in large transformations of federal lands to “protected status,” like the Sonoran Desert and Escalante Grand Staircase monuments, those partnerships become vulnerable to adverse legal actions that diminish and ultimately remove the collaborative grazing relationships.  Regardless of numerous requests to recognize these culturally and ecologically important grazing traditions as monument purposes, no government effort to address the issue was ever initiated.

The Rio Grande valley is one of the most productive agricultural areas in the country as well as a very desirable region in which to live, giving rise to numerous communities, large and small, up and down that valley.  A desert environment like ours can also be the setting for incredibly large and destructive flash floods, and that kind of floodwater frequently threatens the complex sensitive system of irrigation in the valley and its populated communities.  A recent example is the 2006 destruction that occurred in Hatch, NM.  Prevention is critically dependent upon access to the upper watershed in order to build large and small structures to spread and slow such flood-waters.  Besides protecting the valley, these types of projects preserve and improve the biological diversity of the watershed.  This type of mitigation was not sufficiently included among the stated monument purposes, and the safety of lands, property, infrastructure, and people are in question as a result.

Regardless of the vague idea of a buffer zone between the U.S./Mexico border and the vast monument area, no assurance exists that this wholesale removal of land, restricting access by law enforcement and homeland security personnel, will not result in a massive corridor for human trafficking, drug smuggling, and other dangerous criminal movement.  The undeniable precedent of ecological destruction, as well as danger to residents, tourists and local citizens is easily found in the nearby Sonoran Desert Monument in Arizona.  In that case, the ostensible “monument” protection of a very sensitive ecology is actually contributing to its destruction.  Specific language preserving access, road infrastructure, and jurisdictions for federal, state, and county authorities was intentionally excluded from the Organ Mountain Desert Peaks monument’s purposes.  As a result, the ecology and people of Dona Ana County have been put at risk.

The foregoing describes only three of a number of questions that remained intentionally unanswered in this massive removal of federal lands under the guise of monument protection. 

The Western Conservationist Movement is not opposed to, and in fact supports, a monument encompassing the Organ Mountains; however, what we have seen is a massive, far-reaching and impactful abuse of the Antiquities Act reflected by the removal of half a million acres of federal lands reaching all the way from the Organ Mountains to Luna County.  It is a vast, ill-conceived, ill-advised, unaccountable action that threatens the culture, natural productivity, and ecological balance of the region, as well as the safety and security of its citizens.

Time to Modernize the Antiquities Act

By Shawn Regan

 During his Senate confirmation hearing earlier this year, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke said he is an “unapologetic admirer” of Teddy Roosevelt. But the former Montana congressman now finds himself tasked with reining in the very same executive powers Roosevelt created to set aside federal lands.

...The act was created to protect small archaeological sites and other “antiquities” from looting or desecration. But in recent decades, it has been abused by presidents who have used its executive authority to set aside vast swaths of public land as national monuments, often in the final days of their administration. The review process presents an opportunity for Zinke to help reverse these abuses and encourage Congress to reform Roosevelt’s antiquated law.

Consider how far the Antiquities Act has strayed from its original intent: The act states that monument designations should be limited to “the smallest area compatible with proper care and management of the objects to be protected.” In recent years, however, it has been used as a large-scale conservation policy, dictated by presidential decree. Many recent monuments have comprised more than one million acres each.

President Barack Obama was especially fond of the act. He used it to create more national monuments than any other president, including the controversial 1.35 million-acre Bears Ears National Monument in Utah, which he designated at the end of his administration despite opposition by Utah’s legislature, governor, and the state’s entire congressional delegation, as well as local officials.

The act runs roughshod over the legislative process that is at the core of American governance, which seeks to promote compromise and coalition-building. In the case of Bears Ears, a multi-year legislative effort was underway in Utah to reach a “grand bargain” that would protect wilderness areas in the region while also opening other lands for resource development. But the effort was thwarted once Obama declared the Bears Ears monument.

The Antiquities Act can even corrode the democratic process and undermine comprise. After all, why would environmental groups come to the bargaining table in good faith when they can instead lobby the White House to single-handedly set aside land as monuments?

...Zinke should reject Roosevelt’s legacy of conservation-by-presidential-decree in favor of an approach that requires local input and congressional approval. At a time when Americans on both sides of the political aisle are growing increasingly wary of the expansion of executive powers, an act that grants presidents such authority without Congress’ approval or local input should be viewed for what it truly is: an antiquated law.


Tuesday, May 23, 2017

USDA preparing for NAFTA renegotiation

by Logan Hawkes

Regardless of all the talk about how renegotiating U.S. trade deals can improve producer's profits, there is still a lot of concern being tossed around about how changing terms of international trade agreements—like the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA)—will play out for U.S. agricultural producers. Canceling or renegotiating terms of NAFTA was a major campaign promise for Donald Trump, but even the most loyal of Trump supporters have quietly admitted they were not sure how much candidate Trump understood about the importance of NAFTA to U.S. farmers and livestock producers, and how upsetting the apple cart could have a long term negative impact on domestic agriculture production and the ag economy. But as with so many other issues, President Trump has been well advised by scores of farm groups and key advisers since the election, including newly appointed agriculture secretary Sonny Perdue, and rumor has it that the White House has been reevaluating many ideas, such as a border tax, as they gear up to tackle renegotiating efforts with trade officials of both Mexico and Canada.The first priority in the preparation for those trade meetings is becoming more obvious as both the White House and the Republican-controlled House and Senate have begun expressing a sense of urgency and an acceleration of the renegotiation process. Secretary Perdue said last week he is hopeful Congress can clear the way by the end of this week (May 26) to post notice of intent, as required by rules of NAFTA, to call for meetings between member states for the purpose of discussing desired changes and amendments to the NAFTA agreement. Both Trump and his staff, who have been working on NAFTA plans, have been asking U.S. lawmakers to move more quickly, but up until last week, Congress seemed to be dragging their feet. In recent days, however, some lawmakers have joined Trump in expressing the need to hurry up the process and clear the way to get renegotiation efforts moving forward as quickly as possible...more

Trump’s Budget Eliminates Funding For UN Global Warming Programs

The Trump administration has proposed eliminating nearly $1.6 billion in international programs aimed at promoting green energy and fighting global warming. That includes providing no funding to the United Nations’ Green Climate Fund (GCF), which hands out money for programs to adapt or mitigate global warming. The White House said this proposal is in line with President Donald Trump’s campaign pledge to “cease payments to the United Nations’ climate change programs.” The budget “fulfills that pledge,” according to budget documents. The Obama administration gave nearly $1 billion to the GCF in 2016. The Trump administration proposed eliminating that funding, along with zeroing out funding for three other climate programs...more

Storm chasing on US380 in New Mexico

Possibly the best sunset mammatus lighting I have witnessed. Storm chasing on US380 in New Mexico

Two GOP Governors Support Paris Agreement, But President Trump Shouldn't Be Impressed

Two Republican governors last week urged Energy Secretary Rick Perry to “maintain the [U.S.] commitment to the Paris Agreement.” In a joint letter to Perry dated 17th May, Gov. Philip Scott of Vermont and Gov. Charles Baker of Massachusetts pledge they will “continue to do our share” to reach President Obama’s goal of reducing U.S. emissions 26 to 28 percent below 2005 levels by 2025. The Governors decry the “impacts of rising sea levels, increasingly severe flooding, heat waves, droughts, and decline in snow cover,” so maybe they believe their efforts to implement Obama’s NDC will protect their states from such impacts. If so, they are mistaken. Even if all nations fulfill every promise in their NDCs by 2030, which is unlikely, “the total temperature reduction will be 0.048°C (0.086°F) by 2100,” according to a peer-reviewed study by environmental researcher Bjorn Lomborg. That change is less than the current margin of error (0.08°C) in estimates of annual average global temperature. The cooling influence of all combined Paris Agreement NDCs during the policy-relevant future would be smaller still. Clearly, implementing Obama’s NDC nationwide would make no measurable or practical difference in snow cover and the like over the next quarter century. The contributions of Vermont and Massachusetts would be even less consequential. Besides, contrary to what the governors suggest, there is as yet no clear evidence of accelerating sea level rise since 1993; U.S. heat-related mortality has declined, decade by decade, since the 1960s; U.S. floods have not increased in frequency or intensity since 1950; and U.S. flood damage as a percentage of GDP has declined by about 75 percent since 1940....more

Trump budget cuts may stir backlash in rural America

By Richard Cowan | WASHINGTON
President Donald Trump’s proposals to slash federal aid to the poor, the sick and people living in rural areas reflect conservatives' demands for a smaller federal government but target many of the very people who voted for him last November. In his first detailed budget submission to Congress on Tuesday, Trump requested major reductions to programs that help poor families afford groceries and poor and disabled people get healthcare. Job training for unemployed coal miners would be threatened and drug treatment programs would face cuts at a time when heroin and prescription pill addictions are tearing at rural America. Subsidies for commercial air travel in rural areas would be cut by more than half. The White House said many of the proposed cuts were aimed at ineffective programs and that the savings were needed to help balance the budget in 10 years and finance increased spending for defense and other programs. Some Republicans in Congress cheered Trump's budget. Representative Mark Meadows, who heads the House of Representatives' hard-right Freedom Caucus, called it "a great step forward" for conservatives, adding: "It's all about economic growth." But many other Republican lawmakers, seeing a budget they think will be tough to sell back home, greeted it warily. "These cuts that are being proposed are draconian. They're not mere savings. They're really deep, deep cuts," said Republican Representative Hal Rogers, whose eastern Kentucky district relies heavily on federal aid...more

This is wishful thinking on their part. They would love to see Trump's base desert him. And over budget cuts? Not hardly.

The cuts are "draconian"? That's the perspective of a 36-year Congressman, who has chaired the Appropriations Committee and served on 8 of it's subcommittees. Too many years spending too much money, and a threat to his power base. Rogers and the other chicken-hearted Republicans should step aside and let real leaders enact this budget.

Interior Official: Land Consolidation Program Failing Native Americans, Taxpayers

Parish Braden or Molly Block (202) 226-9019

Washington, D.C. – Today, the Subcommittee on Indian, Insular and Alaska Native Affairs held a hearing on the Department of the Interior’s  (DOI) Cobell Land Consolidation Program. The program authorizes DOI to purchase highly fractionated allotments and consolidate them in tribal ownership. After an expenditure of over $1 billion, it remains unclear that the program has greatly reduced Indian land fractionation.  

Indian land fractionation has been an enormous burden for the Department, and it has denied thousands of individual Indians any economic benefit from their lands,” Subcommittee Chairman Doug LaMalfa (R-CA) said.It’s fair to ask: what kind of progress has been made, and has the program been a success?

In many cases, a single tract of Indian land can be owned by dozens or hundreds of Indians. As generations of Indian owners die intestate, their heirs each own tiny, undivided interests often in multiple tracts. Consolidation into a single owner reduces the DOI’s burden in administering these lands and benefits Native Americans by increasing the potential for productively using these properties.

Acting Deputy Secretary of the Department of the Interior Jason Cason testified that the Obama administration-run program “has not been successful in materially reducing fractional interests” despite spending $1.3 billion dollars to date.

It seems obvious to me that this is not something that we can just spend our way out of, but rather requires a careful approach and additional planning,Rep. Aumua Amata Coleman Radewagen (R-American Samoa) stated.  

Cason offered two options for the future of the program: either leaving the initial legislation in place and allowing the program to use the remaining funds to resolve a tiny portion of fractionation, or allow Interior to “leverage the reaming $586 million dollars to carefully target interests.” This would create a stream of revenue that could be put back into the program.

The program will end in 2022, but the funds will be depleted long before the sunset date. Without reform – administratively or legislatively – fractionation will continue to drain resources needed to meet DOI’s responsibilities to tribes across the country.

I view the Buy-Back Program as a once in a lifetime opportunity to meaningfully address fractional interests that plague tribal communities and their efforts towards sovereignty and self-determination,” Cason stated.[I]n my mind we are almost back where we started eight years later, just treading water.”

Click here to view full witness testimony.