Friday, March 31, 2017

Mexico state AG arrested in San Diego on narcotics conspiracy charges

Attorney General Edgar Veytia of the state of Nayarit, Mexico, has been arrested on charges of international narcotics trafficking conspiracy, according to court documents [text, PDF] filed by federal officials on Tuesday. The gist of the grand jury indictment obtained on Veytia earlier this month is that Veytia "together with others, did knowingly and intentionally conspire to manufacture and distribute one or more controlled substances, intending, knowing and having reasonable cause to believe that such substances would be unlawfully imported into the United States." Veytia was taken into custody on Monday [Reuters report] in San Diego by a joint team of FBI, DEA and Homeland Security agents. The arrest was made upon a warrant issued by the US District Court for the Eastern District of New York [official website] earlier this month...more

Judge: Feds Should Reconsider Listing Arizona Pygmy Owl Endangered

A federal judge ruled Wednesday in favor of a group looking to protect a species of owl native to the Sonoran Desert. The Center for Biological Diversity says there are fewer than 50 cactus ferruginous pygmy owls left in Arizona due to development in their habitats, and they are still declining in the Sonoran Desert. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service denied endangered-species protection to the owl in 2011. The department said the pygmy owl is not considered threatened in a significant enough part of its habitat range. The center challenged that, saying that policy doesn’t reflect the original intent of the Endangered Species Act, and a federal judge agreed. Noah Greenwald is the center’s endangered species director. “The policy made it really hard to protect species that are only threatened in portions of their range, and we got that policy overturned, which will matter for species across the country,” Greenwald said. Fish and Wildlife said that because the pygmy owl is doing well in a habitat farther south, it does not qualify for that protection. “They’ve said ‘who cares if it goes extinct in the Sonoran Desert?’ And that’s not what the Endangered Species Act says and not what it’s supposed to do and not what the Fish and Wildlife Service is supposed to do.”...more

I've embedded the opinion below:

Utah Prairie Dogs Win Turf War

Utah prairie dogs won a turf war against property developers when a U.S. appeals court on Wednesday reinstated restrictions on development in areas inhabited by the threatened animals. Environmentalists praised the three-judge appeals court panel's decision overturning an earlier ruling and protecting the foot-long rodents, which property rights activists say threaten farm animals and development with their massive underground colonies, reported Reuters. “This is huge, not only for the prairie dog but for the Endangered Species Act,” Michael Harris, legal director for Friends of Animals, a conservation group involved in the case, said in a phone interview Wednesday. The plaintiffs in the case, People for the Ethical Treatment of Property Owners, had argued that the federal government did not have authority over a species that existed only in one state. They said that while they acknowledge the importance of the species, known to build vast underground networks of tunnels, which have been found under cemeteries and golf courses, they would ask for a review of the panel’s decision by the full court. Wednesday’s ruling affirmed the existing standard of allowing the federal government to limit local development using the Endangered Species Act, the 1973 law intended to protect species at risk of extinction. In the majority opinion, Judge Jerome Holmes wrote that overturning the earlier ruling was in line with actions by previous circuit courts, which have ruled uniformly to protect the Endangered Species Act in similar cases...more

The decision is embedded below

DEA Seized $4 Billion From People Since 2007. Most Were Never Charged with a Crime

The Drug Enforcement Administration seized more than $4 billion in cash from people suspected of drug activity over the last decade, but $3.2 billion of those seizures were never connected to any criminal charges. A report by the Justice Department Inspector General released Wednesday found that the DEA's gargantuan amount of cash seizures often didn't relate to any ongoing criminal investigations, and 82 percent of seizures it reviewed ended up being settled administratively—that is, without any judicial review—raising civil liberties concerns. In total, the Inspector General reports the DEA seized $4.15 billion in cash since 2007, accounting for 80 percent of all Justice Department cash seizures. Those figures do not include other property, such as cars and electronics, which are favorite targets for seizure by law enforcement. All of this is possible through civil asset forfeiture, which allows law enforcement to seize property if they suspect it's connected to criminal activity, without having to file criminal charges against the owner. While law enforcement groups say civil asset forfeiture is a vital tool to disrupt drug traffickers and organized crime, the Inspector General's findings echo the concerns of many civil liberties groups, which say asset forfeiture creates perverse incentives for law enforcement to seize property. "When seizure and administrative forfeitures do not ultimately advance an investigation or prosecution, law enforcement creates the appearance, and risks the reality, that it is more interested in seizing and forfeiting cash than advancing an investigation or prosecution," the Inspector General warned. More than a dozen states have passed reforms to civil asset forfeiture in recent years in response to civil liberties concerns, but the practice remains robust in part because of joint federal and state drug task forces, which share forfeiture proceeds through the Justice Department's Equitable Sharing Fund. According to the report, the Justice Department's Asset Forfeiture program participants have collected $28 billion over the last decade...more

NYC Got Rid Of Trash Cans In Bid To Reduce Trash, And It Backfired

by Andrew Follett

Attempts by New York City to remove trash cans from subway stops in a bid to reduce trash and rats have officially failed, local Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) officials admitted Wednesday. MTA ended the 6-year-long program after two separate audits found it only increased the amount of garbage in stations and caused more track fires. “It took the MTA five years, but we are gratified that it recognized the need to end this controversial experiment that showed little to no improvements in riders’ experience,” Thomas DiNapoli, New York’s State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli, said in a statement. “We’re encouraged the agency continues to address cleanliness in other ways. Straphangers, who have just been burdened with another fare increase, deserve cleaner stations that are free of rats.” DiNapoli’s office regularly attacked MTA over the plan to remove trash cans. The MTA program ultimately removed trash cans at 39 different subway stations across the city, which was supposed to reduce the amount of overflowing garbage and rats. MTA estimates that it removes about 40 tons of trash from the subway system each day...more

 5 years, 2 audits. Not everything happens in a "New York minute" up there.

Reclamation, delayed by protesters, along Dakota Access Pipeline worries landowners

The Dakota Access Pipeline and an associated protest has packed a two-part punch for farmers and ranchers in North Dakota's Morton and Sioux counties. While completion of the pipeline was scheduled for the week of March 20, ranchers are fearing a third effect — soil erosion caused by reclamation delays. Doug Hille ranches with his wife, Carol, and daughter, Steph, at Chimney Butte Ranch. They have about 300 purebred Gelbvieh cows and harvest about 1,000 acres of corn, soybeans and wheat, plus hay and forage. Hille grew up east of St. Anthony. He graduated in agricultural economics from North Dakota State University in 1971, worked for Steiger Tractor Co., the North Dakota National Guard and in industrial sales before moving back to the area in the fall of 1989. The couple's "investment" ranch turned into a purebred Gelbvieh operation. "In certain areas, restoration activities were unable to be completed due to frozen conditions," said Lisa Dillinger, spokesperson for Energy Transfer Partners, L.P., of Dallas, said. "Those remaining activities will be completed after the winter months. The protests did not impact restoration schedules." John Shultz grew up near Parshall, ranched near Flasher and had a career in coal mining, starting in land reclamation management at a mine near Stanton. Schultz, who now lives in Mandaon, has experience in reclamation. He has worked with area ranchers on reclamation negotiations and said it seems "obvious" that the reclamation schedule was affected. "There were many days they didn't work where they were shut down along the pipeline when protesters were going there in the late summer and fall," he said. "Landowners were aware of what was going on, and talking to the crews out there. They weren't working in a vacuum." Shultz said it was an exceptionally long fall. He said he couldn't explain any rationale for such a denial. Roughly 30 miles of the Dakota Access Pipeline right-of-way is still not reclaimed, about 150 feet wide, west of the Missouri River. "We really need to get the land reclaimed as soon as possible, without all kinds of strange people and restrictions about where and when we can cross," Hille said. "We would have been back to normal before Oct. 1 had the protest not stopped everything. We would have had green growth on top of the disturbed ground had these people not shot things down."...more

Mexican Wolf, born in Mexico, captured in Chiricahua area of Arizona

A female Mexican wolf originating from an ongoing reintroduction effort in Mexico was captured March 26 on private ranch land in southeastern Arizona by the Interagency Field Team (IFT) and relocated to the Sevilleta Wolf Management Facility in New Mexico, where it is in good health. Management agencies in the United States and Mexico will determine the most appropriate long-term management action for this wolf. The wolf was first sighted in the United States on March 19 by an Arizona Game and Fish Department wildlife manager and again on March 22 by ranch employees. In the latter instance, the wolf exhibited minor problem behavior by not retreating after the reporting party tried to haze it out of the area. The wolf is believed to have been traveling alone, as there have been no other wolf sightings in the area. The wolf was initially described as wearing a GPS radio collar, and the Arizona Game and Fish Department conducted an aerial telemetry flight on March 22 to detect any signal emanating from the collar; however, no signal was detected, and the collar was later found to be non-functional. The wolf (f1530) was born in 2016 at a captive wolf breeding facility in Cananea, Mexico, and released in October 2016 in the state of Chihuahua, Mexico, approximately 90 miles from the international border. The last collar radio transmission was Feb. 14, from 21 miles south of the international border with New Mexico. Some area ranchers reported possible livestock depredations in the area. USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service – Wildlife Services investigated eight livestock carcasses between March 22 and 27, to determine the cause of deaths. The results of the investigation confirmed that one was killed by a wolf, four died of natural causes, two died of unknown causes, and one was unable to be investigated because of its deteriorated condition.  The area where this wolf was captured is within the federal Mexican Wolf Experimental Population Area (MWEPA) in the United States. This designation was revised in 2015 and provides flexibility for managing Mexican wolves as part of an experimental population. Prior to 2015, the MWEPA extended from Interstate 40 south to Interstate 10 in Arizona and New Mexico. The 2015 revision extended the southern boundary to the United States/Mexico border to provide more management flexibility in this area...more

Ranch Radio Song Of The Day #1818

Think I'll start a new feature: Fiddle Friday. And today we have Chubby Wise fiddling Lost Indian. The tune is on his 1970 album Hoedown.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Feds want to ease jaguar protections to build border wall

While one branch of the U.S. government reviews a plan to bring back the endangered jaguar, another branch wants to waive legal protections for the species to build the border wall. This week, new Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke told a ranching advocacy group that U.S. Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly “will put forward a waiver on the border, which will allow me much more flexibility” in managing the jaguar there, according to E&E News, an environmental news service. Zinke’s talk to the Public Lands Council in Washington, D.C., didn’t elaborate on how that would happen. “Secretary Zinke is committed to carrying out the president’s vision for an immigration system that is lawful and includes border security,” Interior spokeswoman Heather Swift wrote in an email. Zinke’s comment Tuesday came eight days after the Fish and Wildlife Service took final public comments on a detailed jaguar recovery plan. The 508-page document proposes a complex blueprint of measures costing about $56 million over five years and $605 million over 50 years to help the jaguar recover from what many believe is a precarious state. Under the 2005 federal Real ID Act, the government has the right to formally waive restrictions under the Endangered Species Act and other environmental laws in pursuit of building border fencing. Homeland Security used that law to help it build about 650 miles of border fencing and walls during the 2000s. The jaguar does have legal protection in the U.S. in the form of the wildlife service’s formal designation of much of the Arizona-New Mexico border with the Mexican states of Sonora and Chihuahua as critical habitat for the large mammal. The jaguar is known to live in 19 countries including the U.S., but it is considered vulnerable to a wide range of threats including habitat destruction and illegal killing. Seven jaguars have been documented in the U.S. since 1996 — five in Southern Arizona and two in southwestern New Mexico, including one near the Arizona border. Two were photographed in Southern Arizona late last year...more

The standoff between Trump and green groups just boiled into war

The first shots have been fired in what’s likely to be a long, bitter war over the environment between conservationists and President Donald Trump. It started Wednesday when a broad coalition of groups sued the Trump administration in federal court, barely 24 hours after the president signed an executive order that lifted a moratorium on new coal leases on federal land. Earthjustice, the Sierra Club, WildEarth Guardians, Defenders of Wildlife, the Center for Biological Diversity and others call the directive illegal because it allows a massive area of land to be disrupted without any federally required study of the potential environmental impact. On Thursday, environmentalists also challenged the administration’s decision to move forward with the Keystone XL oil pipeline. This second federal suit claims the State Department relied on “an outdated and incomplete environmental impact statement” to comply with a 60-day decision deadline set by Trump. Environmental groups have been raising money and preparing to battle Trump since his election, and the fight over coal is expected to be the first of many. The president already has moved on a campaign promise to dismantle parts of the federal government, with recent proposals to dramatically cut funding for the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Interior, the nation’s steward for public lands...more

California man who refused to remove blog posts outing FBI informants arrested

Federal authorities have arrested California resident Gary Hunt after he failed to show up in U.S. District Judge Anna J. Brown's courtroom this month to explain why he shouldn't be held in civil contempt for not removing from his blog information about informants the FBI used in its investigation of the occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge. Hunt, taken into custody in northern California Thursday on a warrant issued by Brown, is expected to be transferred to federal court in Oregon soon to attend what's called a show cause hearing before the judge. The judge, in an order unsealed after Hunt's arrest, wrote that it was   "necessary to issue a warrant for Hunt's arrest in order to bring him before this Court for his failure to appear at the show-cause hearing and to adjudicate civil contempt hearings'' as to the government's allegations that he violated a court's protective order. Hunt, who lives in Northern California, has argued that the court's protective order didn't apply to him since he was never one of the defendants in the federal conspiracy case. He also argued that since his blog has been shared by others, it would be nearly impossible to remove all the material he's posted from the Internet. Hunt also contends that since the federal government identified one of the informants during the first trial, Mark McConnell, any privilege of confidentiality masking the other informants' names is lost. "There was no objection when the government exposed Mark McConnell. There was no objection when Terri Linnell exposed her role as an informant. There was no objection when the diligence of the defense exposed Fabio Minoggio,'' Hunt wrote in one of his online articles. "For, at that instant in time, as each was exposed, the informants privilege ceased to exist.'' In his blog called "Burns Chronicles'' on his Outpost of Freedom website, Hunt has quoted from FBI reports on the agency's 15 informants during the occupation. The 130 reports, spanning 246 pages, were subject to a protective order, and each page contains the printed words, "Dissemination limited by court order,'' FBI agent Ronnie Walker wrote in an affidavit attached to one of the prosecutors' court filing...more

Nearly doubling Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument sets up battle

by Mateusz Perkowski
Capital Press

To rancher Lee Bradshaw, the presidential order nearly doubling the size of the Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument was both shocking and predictable. Ever since the original 53,000 acres of public land were designated as a monument in 2000, there had been whispers about enlarging it. Even so, the announcement during the final days of President Barack Obama’s administration in early 2017 appeared rushed to Bradshaw, particularly since a handful of meetings held about the expansion were more about creating hype than seeking public input, he said. “I knew it was coming our way, but it was unexpected about the way they did it,” Bradshaw said. With the federal government adding 47,000 acres to the monument, the ranching and timber industries in Southern Oregon are bracing for the worst. Critics of the monument say they’ve seen the economic damage caused by the original designation, leading them to expect similar restrictions on grazing and logging within the expanded boundary. “Through no fault of their own, their operations are in jeopardy,” said John O’Keeffe, president of the Oregon Cattlemen’s Association. This time, though, the timber industry and county governments are spearheading a legal battle against the monument expansion, arguing the federal government lacks the authority to restrict logging on much of the newly included property. If the litigation proves successful in scaling back the monument’s size, it would also effectively thwart potential restrictions on cattle grazing. Although inclusion in the monument doesn’t automatically prohibit grazing — as it does most commercial logging — critics say ranchers will inevitably face increased scrutiny and curtailments. “Even though the language of the proclamation says grazing can continue, they just regulate you out of business,” said Karen Budd-Falen, an attorney specializing in public land disputes. Under the original Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument proclamation issued by President Bill Clinton, the U.S. Bureau of Land Management had to analyze whether grazing interferes with “protecting the objects of biological interest.” If necessary, the agency was ordered to retire allotments. In 2008, the study found “negative interactions between livestock and individual biological objects of interest,” meaning that grazing was “not compatible” with their protection in some locations. This determination convinced Mike Dauenhauer and several other ranchers to sell their grazing rights to environmental groups for an undisclosed amount...more

Protection for Colorado-Wyoming Mouse Challenged Again

DENVER (AP) — Homebuilders, ranchers and others have again asked the federal government to lift wildlife protections for a long-tailed mouse found in Colorado and Wyoming. A petition filed with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Thursday revives a claim that the Preble's meadow jumping mouse is not a distinct species but essentially the same as other, more plentiful mice. The agency has 90 days to respond. The mouse was listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act in 1998. Its identity has been disputed for years, prompting multiple legal challenges. The Fish and Wildlife Service removed it from the threatened list in Wyoming in 2008 but restored it in 2011. It has remained on the list in Colorado. Opponents say the protections result in costly and unnecessary restrictions on land use.

Western Values Project launches billboard in DC: Teddy vs. Zinke

The Western Values Project launched a campaign urging Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke to keep his promise to follow the example of President Teddy Roosevelt.  Beginning today, and continuing throughout the week, a mobile billboard highlighting the website will appear around the Department of the Interior. “Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke wants you to think he’s just like Teddy Roosevelt. What he does about the Bears Ears will prove if he’s just blowing smoke,” said Chris Saeger, Executive Director of the Western Values Project.“Throughout his career as a politician, Ryan Zinke has told anyone willing to listen that he’s cut from the same cloth as the iconic conservation pioneer, and founder of the National Parks Service, former President Roosevelt. His support for the Land and Water Conservation fund and his opposition to the seizure and sale of national public lands backs that up. But his record of clearing the way for big oil and gas companies to drill on American public lands—along with the $345,136 in campaign cash he’s taken from them–raises questions.” release

Trump's Interior secretary warns the border wall faces geographic obstacles

Geographic and physical challenges - including the Rio Grande and threatened wildlife - will make it difficult to build the “big, beautiful wall” that President Donald Trump has promised on the U.S.-Mexico border, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke said Wednesday. Building a wall “is complex in some areas,” including Big Bend National Park and along the river, which twists through nearly half of the 2,000-mile border, Zinke said. Hundreds of species live within 30 miles of the border, including threatened jaguars and Mexican gray wolves. The Trump administration is poised to relax protections for the jaguars, which live in northern Mexico and parts of the southwestern United States, to make it easier to build the wall. The complications Zinke highlighted were the same faced by Trump’s predecessors, George W. Bush and Barack Obama, as they sought to build or complete hundreds of miles of fencing along the border. Fencing that is already in place is a mixture of various designs, including towering steel bollards designed to keep both people and vehicles from moving north and shorter steel posts aimed only at blocking cars. In parts of Texas’ Rio Grande Valley, some stretches of fencing are nearly a mile away from the border in part to accommodate flood plains and an international treaty. And in Texas, almost all of the land along the border is privately owned. When Bush tried to build border fencing starting in 2006, he faced stiff opposition from local ranchers and farmers, many of whom took the government to court on plans to use their land. The Department of Homeland Security is responsible for the border wall, but Zinke said the Interior Department will play a critical support role. According to the Government Accountability Office, federal and tribal lands make up about 632 miles (1,017 kilometers), or roughly 1/3 of the nearly 2,000-mile (3,218-kilometers) border. “At the end of the day, what’s important is American security and to make sure we have a border,” Zinke told reporters on a conference call. “Without a border a nation cannot exist.”...more

US interior secretary suggests America could annex Mexican land to build Donald Trump's wall

America could annex Mexican land to build Donald Trump's "big, beautiful wall" on the border, the US Interior Secretary has suggested. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke told a Public lands Council meeting the Trump administration did not want to build the wall on US soil because it would mean ceding the Rio Grande river to Mexico. “The border is complicated, as far as building a physical wall,” Mr Zinke said, according to E&E News. “The Rio Grande, what side of the river are you going to put the wall? We’re not going to put it on our side and cede the river to Mexico. And we’re probably not going to put it in the middle of the river.” While the Interior Secretary did not elaborate on how how the wall would get built if not on American land, his comments imply it could be constructed on the Mexican side of the border. He also suggested the wall may not be as big or impassable as Mr Trump believes is necessary to stop illegal immigration, and said electronic defences may be more appropriate in some areas...more

Environmental groups file lawsuit over Trump climate actions

Environmental groups that vowed to fight President Donald Trump’s efforts to roll back his predecessor’s plans to curb global warming made good on their promise Wednesday, teaming up with an American Indian tribe to ask a federal court to block an order that lifts restrictions on coal sales from federal lands. The Interior Department last year placed a moratorium on new coal leases on federal lands to review the climate change impacts of burning the fuel and whether taxpayers were getting a fair return. But Trump on Tuesday signed a sweeping executive order that included lifting the moratorium, and also initiated a review of former President Barack Obama’s signature plan to restrict greenhouse gas emissions from coal-fired power plants. Environmentalists say lifting the moratorium will worsen climate change and allow coal to be sold for unfairly low prices. “It’s really just a hail Mary to a dying industry,” said Jenny Harbine, an Earthjustice attorney who filed the lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Montana on behalf of the Northern Cheyenne Tribe, Sierra Club, and Center for Biological Diversity. The White House did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment on the lawsuit. The Department of Justice declined comment. Environmental groups have been preparing for months to fight the Trump administration’s environmental rollbacks, including by hiring more lawyers and raising money. Trump, who has called global warming a “hoax” invented by the Chinese, said during his campaign that he would kill Obama’s climate plans and bring back coal jobs. Advocates said they also will work to mobilize public opposition to the executive order, saying they expect a backlash from Americans who worry about climate change...more

“This is not what most people elected Trump to do,” said David Goldston, director of government affairs at the Natural Resources Defense Council.  

Most people didn't elect Obama to designate 553 million acres of national monuments, either, but you guys got him to do it. Now others are doing the same to you on environmental issues. You shouldn't be surprised.

Ranch Radio Song Of The Day #1817

There are many good versions of the tune Mountain Dew, but I believe the one by the Stanley Brothers is my favorite. The tune was recorded in Cincinnati on Sept. 14, 1959 and features Carter Stanley singing lead and the fine guitar work of Bill Napier.

30,000 Burning Man tickets sellout during main sale

Thirty-thousand tickets at $425 each that went on sale at noon on Wednesday, March 29, have sold out, according to the Burning Man Twitter account. "Okay, that's all, folks," Burning Man's Twitter account said at 1:02 p.m. "If you didn't get tickets, all is not lost! See to figure out what to do next." The Burning Man website says 500 additional tickets will go on sale for $1,200 each starting at noon on Wednesday, April 5.The organization also offers tickets for those with low incomes, though there is a more extensive application process. Burning Man runs from August 27 to September 4 in the Black Rock Desert. Fox

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Trump administration ends Obama's coal-leasing freeze; enviros sue

The Interior Department on Wednesday officially rolled back a major Obama administration coal initiative. Secretary Ryan Zinke formally lifted the ban on new coal leasing on federal land, a policy shift that was one of the cornerstones of the climate and energy executive order that President Trump signed on Tuesday. Interior also suspended a review of federal coal-leasing rates that the Obama administration and environmental activists had touted as a win-win for the climate and for taxpayers. But Zinke said he is still committed to one of the basic goals of that review, which was establishing an Interior Department task force to consider raising royalty rates for coal mining. The order, while fulfilling a key campaign promise from Trump, generated swift opposition from environmentalists and public lands supporters, who immediately sued over the order lifting the coal-leasing moratorium. The groups say the in-depth study of the coal program was justified by science and by simple economic facts...more

Thousands of Christmas trees dropped in Bayou Sauvage to deter erosion

National Guard helicopters dropped thousands of used Christmas trees into Bayou Sauvage National Wildlife Refuge marshlands in New Orleans East this week. It's part of a decades-long restoration effort. "For us, it was Christmas in March," Shelley Stiaes said. She's the manager of the 25,000-acre refuge, and has worked there 19 years. Nearly 5,000 trees collected in New Orleans after Christmas were airlifted to select spots in wetlands and ponds. The trees act as a breakwater, protecting the city from storm surges and erosion, while also providing habitat for fish and other wildlife. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service says Bayou Sauvage is the largest urban refuge in the country and is one of the last remaining marshlands on Lake Pontchartrain. It hosts aquatic animals, alligator and about 340 bird species. "The trees provide important habitat for waterfowl and fish, crab, crawfish and shrimp," Stiaes said. "And for us - the people of New Orleans - it reverses shoreline erosion." Silt trapped in the tree branches form a stable base for marsh grasses to take hold. Once rooted, the grasses help keep the land in place against wave action. The refuge has been using Christmas trees for more than 20 years, long enough to measure the program's success. "We've seen results," Stiaes said. "And since Katrina, the trees have helped build the refuge back up."...more

Trump lawyers ask court to halt climate rule case

Trump administration attorneys are asking an appeals court to hold off on ruling on whether the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Clean Power Plan is legal. In a filing late Tuesday, attorneys notified the court that President Trump had signed an executive order earlier that day asking the EPA to consider repealing the climate change regulation and that EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt had officially started that process. Given those circumstances, the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia should put a pause on proceedings until the new regulatory process for potential repeal is complete, they said...more

U.S. to review energy royalty rates on federal land

The U.S. Interior Department said on Wednesday that it would form a new committee to review royalty rates collected from oil and gas drilling and coal mining on federal lands to ensure taxpayers receive their full value. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke said the committee would advise him on whether the government is getting a fair price from companies that lease public land for energy and natural resource development. The committee will replace the process put in place by former Interior Secretary Sally Jewell to review and overhaul the federal coal leasing program. "The programmatic review put in place (by Jewell) was costly and unnecessary," Zinke told reporters on Wednesday. "I have established a royalty policy committee to provide advice to me about how we value collections across the board," he said...more

Calls Mount For Ban On ‘Cyanide Bombs’ After Death Of Family Pet

Canyon Mansfield and his dog were walking the ridge line near his house in Pocatello, Idaho, when the 14-year-old spotted a curious device that looked like a sprinkler nestled in the ground. When he reached down to inspect it, the device detonated, erupting with a “loud popping noise that knocked Canyon off his feet” and dowsed his face and clothes with an “orange, powdery substance,” The Idaho State Journal reports. After cleaning himself off, Mansfield turned to his dog — only to find the 3-year-old lab with “red froth coming from his mouth and his eyes turning glassy,” Mansfield later told the newspaper. The device that detonated in Mansfield’s face, sent him to the hospital and, ultimately, killed his dog on March 16 was an M-44. Often known as a “cyanide bomb,” it’s a device used by the U.S. Department of Agriculture to prevent predators such as coyotes from harming livestock on farm and ranch lands. When triggered, the M-44 spits a potentially lethal dose of sodium cyanide powder at the interloper. Which raises a question, asked by Mansfield’s parents, conservation groups and federal agencies alike: What was the “cyanide bomb” doing on land owned by the federal Bureau of Land Management, so close to the house of a family unaware of its existence?...more

New Ag Order requires farmers to start sampling groundwater now

Farmers and ranchers will be required to monitor groundwater for contaminants under a new Conditional Waiver of Waste Discharge Requirements for Discharges from Irrigated Lands, and the first samples must be taken within the next three months. The new Agricultural Order also expanded reporting requirements for total nitrogen applied to farmers’ and ranchers’ lands. Also known as the Agricultural Order, the new regulations were adopted March 8 by the Central Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board and are designed to reduce the amount of pollutants entering creeks, rivers, ponds and lakes as well as groundwater by limiting runoff from agricultural operations As the third Agricultural Order adopted in the Central Coast region, the new regulations are referred to as Ag Order 3.0 and will be in effect for only three years, rather than five years as the previous two orders. Ag Order 3.0 was designed to be an “interim order” to give the Regional Water Quality Control Board staff time to analyze and incorporate findings from the previous order, so it must be replaced by March 7, 2020, a board spokesman said. The water board staff will soon provide more information about the new regulations, including an updated compliance calendar and information about workshop opportunities, the spokesman said. In the meantime, growers must take two samples from the primary irrigation well located on each ranch and all domestic wells located on the assessor parcel numbers where the ranch is located. The first sample must be drawn before the end of June, with the second sample drawn from September through December, by a qualified third party — a consultant, technician or person conducting cooperative monitoring on behalf of the grower. As in Ag Order 2.0, laboratory analysis must be conducted by a state-certified laboratory that can coordinate with the grower to submit the sampling results electronically using the water board’s GeoTracker electronic deliverable format, or EDF...more

House votes to restrict EPA’s use of certain types of science

 The House voted Wednesday to restrict the kind of scientific studies and data that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) can use to justify new regulations. The Honest and Open New EPA Science Treatment Act, or HONEST Act, passed 228-194. It would prohibit the EPA from writing any regulation that uses science that is not publicly available. It’s the latest push by House Republicans to clamp down on what they say has turned into an out-of-control administrative state that enforces expensive, unworkable regulations that are not scientifically sound. Even with President Trump in the White House, the GOP feels it’s important to make lasting changes to how regulations are written and justified. The House earlier this year passed a pair of bills to rein in regulations across government — the Regulations from the Executive in Need of Scrutiny (REINS) Act and the Regulatory Accountability Act. But Democrats, environmentalists and health advocates say the HONEST Act is intended to handcuff the EPA. They say it would irresponsibly leave the EPA unable to write important regulatory protections, since the agency might not have the ability to release some parts of the scientific data underpinning them...more

BLM Says USDA Broke Cyanide Trap Ban

BOISE, Idaho (AP) — Officials say a cyanide device for killing coyotes that spewed the poison on a boy and killed his dog was set up on public land in Idaho in February despite a decision months earlier to halt use of the devices on all of the state's U.S.-owned land. The device activated March 16 when 14-year-old Canyon Mansfield and his dog checked it out 300 yards (275 meters) from their home. The boy suffered headaches. The U.S. Bureau of Land Management told The Associated Press Tuesday the device was put there by the U.S. Agriculture Department in late February. An Agriculture Department document said it would stop using the devices last November on federally owned Idaho land to reduce health risks to people and domestic animals. The department says it is investigating. AP

Exclusive: Secretary Ryan Zinke Ready to Restore Trust in the Interior Department

by Charlie Spiering

Montana Congressman and former Navy SEAL Ryan Zinke did not know what job his newly elected commander-in-chief had for him when he first visited Trump Tower in December with his wife, Lola, for an interview. “It was 200 shotgun questions,” he said, recalling the moment with the president in an interview with Breitbart News. Trump grilled Zinke on a wide variety of topics such as women in combat, Syrian policy, the rise of China, Indian affairs, pipelines, and energy policies. “It spread the spectrum of subjects,” he said. Trump raised the possibility of his serving as the secretary of Veterans Affairs, but Zinke declined. But as he left the building, he still did not know what Trump wanted him to do. “Two days later, I was flying back to Montana and Vice President Pence calls and says, ‘Congratulations.’ The first thing I asked him was, ‘What job?’” Zinke chuckled. He was delighted to hear that he had been selected to serve as the secretary of the Interior... Zinke outlined plans of a reorganization of the department to shift resources out of Washington, DC, to the front lines, looking forward to the next century of land management. He added that Trump asked him to think big. “We’re going to reorganize the Department of the Interior for the next 100 years,” he said, citing Theodore Roosevelt’s lofty ambitions. Zinke said President Trump would likely focus on managing existing resources before considering his own preservation legacy. In the modern presidency, only Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, and Richard Nixon chose not to increase the amount of land protected by the federal government. The last president to decrease the amount of acreage was President Dwight Eisenhower. Trump, Zinke said, was already looking at ways to roll back Obama’s last-minute land grabs. “I don’t think it’s in dispute whether he can modify a monument,” Zinke said, referring to the president. “The dispute is whether or not he can nullify it — still untested and unclear in the law.”...During the Obama administration, local conflicts over the use of public lands fueled public frustration in Western states. The Bundy clan took up arms against the government on two different occasions, making headlines as they protested an overbearing government bureaucracy. But Zinke thinks a different attitude from Washington, DC, might prevent that from happening in the first place. “I would say the war is over with the new president and the administration,” he said. “We want to be the good neighbors.” He cited the conclusion of the Dakota Access Pipeline protest in February as an example of how the federal government could work together with local officials to enforce the law and diffuse the situation before it got out of control. “We want to see when we have a law enforcement problem, our first line of defense is the local sheriff,” he said, suggesting that a BLM truck would not be as effective in thwarting people upset with the government...more

 A lot of good info in this article.

Three things are very familiar to me - Moving decision making from DC to the field, streamlining regs, and being a 'good neighbor'.  All three were implemented by the Reagan administration, all three were good for the nation then and would be good for us now. But remember, all three were overturned by subsequent administrations. They will not bring permanent change to national policy on federal lands nor to our lives as Westerners.

Ranch Radio Song Of The Day #1816

Another one of my favorites is  It's About To Get Western by Gary P  Nunn. The tune is on his 2000 CD It's A Texas Thing.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Simpson says Trump administration may move federal land agencies to the West

Idaho Republican Rep. Mike Simpson says the Trump administration is looking at reorganizing federal land agencies to move more people out of Washington, D.C., and closer to the land they manage in the West. Several efforts were made in previous administrations to move the U.S. Forest Service out of the U.S. Department of Agriculture and into the Department of Interior, where other land, water and fish, and wildlife management agencies are housed. Simpson, speaking at a conference on public lands convened Tuesday by the Andrus Center for Public Policy at Boise State University, was skeptical that the Department of Agriculture would want to give up the forestry agency. “That’s a discussion were going to have, but I think you’ll see more coordination between the Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management,” Simpson said. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke and Simpson talked specifically about moving the BLM headquarters, which manages 247 million acres across 12 Western states, to a Western city like Denver. Simpson said he put a plug in for Boise, home of the National Interagency Fire Center that coordinates U.S. wildland firefighting. “His view is that we have too many people working in Interior in Washington, D.C., when the work that needs to be done is out in the states and particularly in the West, and he wants to move a lot of the management decisions and a lot of the people from Washington out to the states,” Simpson said. “I think that’s a good thing.”...more

Notice how Simpson, an influential member of the House Appropriations Committee, defers to USDA when it comes to the placement of the Forest Service. Does it make the most management sense? Is it the most efficient use of federal resources? Will it save the taxpayers money? Never mind, what matters is whether USDA "would want to give up" the Forest Service. Its not what the public wants, its what USDA wants that will be the deciding factor. As long as that remains to be the Republicans attitude, little will change for the better.

Trump's E.O. on energy independence

Oil has begun flowing through the Dakota Access pipeline — here's what that means for the key players

Oil has begun flowing through the Dakota Access pipeline after months of delays caused by protests and Native American tribes' efforts to stop the project. The 1,200-mile pipeline is capable of moving half of the oil produced in North Dakota to a distribution point in Illinois. It will be fully operational in about three weeks. Here's a look at how the saga has affected the major players: For Texas-based pipeline developer Energy Transfer Partners, the start of operations means money. The company had hoped the pipeline would be operational late last year, but resistance from Sioux tribes and a favorable order under the Obama administration blocked final construction until President Donald Trump took office in January and pushed federal officials to approve the final stage of construction. The company says in court documents that it has long-term transportation contracts with nine companies to ship oil through the pipeline. Based on information supplied by ETP in court documents, delays have cost it more than half-a-billion dollars. The fight over the pipeline drew widespread attention and at one point attracted thousands of protesters to an encampment near the small town of Cannon Ball. For opponents, the flow of oil is a setback but not necessarily a defeat. Four Sioux tribes — the Standing Rock, Cheyenne River, Yankton and Oglala — have a lawsuit pending in federal court and hope to persuade a judge to shut down the pipeline to protect Lake Oahe, a Missouri River reservoir and their water source. Opponents say they also have succeeded on a larger scale by raising awareness about clean water issues and sparking protests at other pipeline projects across the nation, as well as at banks that have supported Dakota Access. "The resistance is growing," protest leader Joye Braun said. "Water protectors have spread out around the country."...more

EPA's Pruitt facing challenge from conservatives

Scott Pruitt's first weeks leading the Environmental Protection Agency have been marked by infighting among competing factions, three sources tell CNN, including a group that believes Pruitt may not go far enough to reshape the agency and pare back regulations. Some conservatives both inside and outside the agency are concerned their dream of reigning in Obama-era EPA regulations and gutting the agency in a more wholesale fashion will not come to fruition. Several sources outlined three feuding factions within EPA: firm conservatives who want to see a more aggressive pullback of the agency's regulatory footprint; career employees, many of whom are concerned the new administration is hostile to environmental and climate concerns; and Pruitt's inner circle, who are reluctant to go along with some of the most unpopular rollbacks that are controversial even among moderate Republicans. A source from the more conservative faction described Pruitt as an administrator focused more on optics than reform, causing the source to believe Pruitt is more interested in his post-EPA political career than bringing to fruition the wishes of the most ardent EPA critics. For example, the source said Pruitt has missed a handful of policy briefings, and in some cases decisions have been made by his chief of staff. Policy briefings are normal for an incoming administrator, said a fourth source who is a former career employee and in touch with current EPA employees. Pruitt has not requested further briefings, according to the former employee. The more conservative sources lament Pruitt's current course. "Pruitt shares the ideology that excessive EPA overreach and over regulation does need to be rolled back, but he's resistant to some regulatory action for fear some of the more unpopular actions could harm his future political career," said another source close to the administration who is concerned about Pruitt's first month on the job...more

Trump signs order to roll back Obama’s climate moves

President Trump on Tuesday signed a wide-ranging executive order to start the process of rolling back former President Obama’s aggressive climate change agenda. Trump signed the order in a ceremony at the headquarters of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) — the agency responsible for many of the major policies being targeted. The most significant piece of the order instructs the EPA to formally consider repealing the Clean Power Plan. It was the central piece of Obama’s second-term climate agenda, setting a 32 percent cut in the power sector’s carbon dioxide emissions by 2030. Federal regulators are also asked under the order to consider repealing the EPA’s carbon limits for newly-built power plants and methane emissions standards for oil and natural gas drilling from the EPA and the Interior Department. It also has some immediate effects. The order stops Interior’s moratorium on new coal-mining leases on federal land, something Obama instituted to study how to charge coal companies for the climate impacts of the fuel they mine on federal property. It also stops policies asking federal agencies to consider climate change in environmental reviews, a government-wide accounting method for climate change regulations called the Social Cost of Carbon and Obama executive orders on climate, like one asking that infrastructure be built to withstand a future climate affected by global warming...more

Also see the White House background briefing.

Trump signs bills reversing Obama regs, including BLM 2.0

President Trump rolled back more Obama-era regulations Monday, signing four bills that reverse rules on education, land use and federal purchasing. Promising to "remove every job-killing regulation we can find," Trump said even more regulation-cutting bills were on the way. The resolutions of disapproval reached the president's desk through the Congressional Review Act, a rarely used tool that allows Congress to fast-track a bills to reverse regulations. Before Trump, the law had been used successfully only once in its 21-year history. Trump has now signed a total of seven, a pace that has surprised even experts. "There are several that weren't on my radar at all," said Susan Dudley, director of the Regulatory Studies Center at George Washington University. Previous bills have reversed Obama regulations banning Social Security recipients with a mental impairment from buying a firearm, restricting the dumping of mining waste in streams and rivers, and requiring energy companies to disclose how much they're paying foreign governments. In fact, now half of all bills Trump has signed so far have been these regulation-killing resolutions. White House press secretary Sean Spicer said Monday many of the bills "cancel federal power grabs that took decision-making away from the states and local governments."...more

Ranchers fear Forest Service taking their grazing

Ranchers in Okanogan County, Wash., believe the USFS is trying to take away rights to graze cattle on federal land. A county commissioner says more of the same might be happening in the West. AddThis Sharing Buttons Share to Google BookmarkShare to FacebookShare to TwitterShare to PrintShare to More Dan Wheat Capital Press Published on March 24, 2017 10:18AM Calves on winter feedings grounds on a ranch in Okanogan County, Wash., last March. Ranchers are concerned the U.S. Forest Service is trying to curtail their summer grazing this year. Dan Wheat/Capital Press Calves on winter feedings grounds on a ranch in Okanogan County, Wash., last March. Ranchers are concerned the U.S. Forest Service is trying to curtail their summer grazing this year. Buy this photo Cattle on winter feeding at a ranch in northern Okanogan County, Wash., last March. Ranchers are concerned this year about losing summer grazing on federal lands. Dan Wheat/Capital Press Cattle on winter feeding at a ranch in northern Okanogan County, Wash., last March. Ranchers are concerned this year about losing summer grazing on federal lands. Buy this photo OKANOGAN, Wash. — An Okanogan County commissioner says the U.S. Forest Service has taken an aggressive stance to restrict cattle grazing in Okanogan County that may be part of a larger effort to do so throughout the West before former Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue is confirmed as U.S. Agriculture Secretary. The USFS issued non-compliance letters to 25 of 41 grazing allotment holders in the Tonasket Ranger District, roughly the northern third, of Okanogan County in January and February, County Commissioner Jim DeTro says. U.S. Rep. Dan Newhouse, R-Wash., says the USFS violated it’s own policies and he sent a letter to the USFS chief because local officials were unresponsive. The non-compliance letters allege over grazing, use of riparian areas and stream sedimentation aimed at restricting grazing on thousands of acres of USFS grazing allotments that have been grazed by ranchers for decades, DeTro said. “One rancher has run cattle on federal allotments since 1936 and never had so much as a note in his file. Then bang this year he gets a registered letter of noncompliance with no prior communication. It’s like the Gestapo moved in,” DeTro said. Another rancher got a non-compliance letter alleging over grazing last year who said he couldn’t have over grazed because he had sold his cows and had no cows on the allotment, DeTro said. Last season, a USFS range tech threatened to bring in federal marshals and have a rancher arrested if he didn’t have his cattle off an allotment on time, he said.

Ranchers win $100 million from Sacramento County in political influence case

A federal court jury on Tuesday awarded more than $100 million in damages to two gravel mining families that accused Sacramento County government officials of putting them out of business for the benefit of the rival Teichert Construction company. After a day and a half of deliberations, the U.S. District Court panel in Sacramento awarded $75 million in compensatory damages to Joe and Yvette Hardesty and $30 million to the Jay Schneider family. The verdict also hit three county officials with punitive damages, including Roger Dickinson, the former state Assembly member who was chairman of the Board of Supervisors when the county imposed a cease and desist order on the joint Hardesty-Schneider mining operation. The jurors found Dickinson liable for a $25,000 award against the Schneiders only. Retired Sacramento County Planning Director planner Robert Sherry was hit with $750,000 in punitive damages against the two families, while jurors awarded the Schneiders $1 million from county aggregate resource manager Jeff Gamel. In the trial that lasted more than a month, the plaintiffs charged that what was known as the “Historic Schneider Mine” had been running for decades as a “vested” operation with approval from Sacramento County. The Hardestys, who leased the mine located off of Meiss Road in the Sloughhouse area from the Schneider family ranching operation, charged in court papers that the county’s attitude changed after they “caught the attention of influential competitors like Teichert.”...more

Strong Women

Nicole Courtney Smith is the sixth generation of her family to ranch in Granite Station, California. Her family’s Kern County cow-calf operation, the Glenn Record Ranch, is tucked in the mountains northeast of Bakersfield, California. There, she lives and works with her family, including her parents Sarah and Jack Smith; brother, Jared; grandparents Karl and Glenda Johnson; and aunt and uncle Roselle and Matthew Wrenden. The ranch has been handed down through the women on her mother’s side of the family, and 23-year-old Smith is poised to perpetuate her family’s ranching traditions into the future. In the April 2017 issue of Western Horseman, Smith is featured in Women of the West. Here are five other questions we asked during our interview with her while driving on a rough, narrow road to the ranch. What women have had the most influence on you? I consider all of the women in my life—my grandma, my aunt and my mom—extremely tough. They have raised me to be a respectful, hard-working young lady and I appreciate that. My great-grandma Ginger was the apple of my eye. When I was growing up, no matter where we were or what we were doing she always had a York peppermint patty for me. She died in 2008 and I miss her, but my grandma is taking her place and always has food or candy for us. She makes sure we’re fed extremely well...more

WSU professor backs curbing lethal wolf removal

Wolves shouldn’t be shot on public lands to protect the livestock of ranchers who refuse to sign government contracts to prevent depredations, according to Washington State University wolf scientist Robert Wielgus, who was publicly upbraided by the school in August for accusing a rancher of baiting wolves with cattle. Wielgus, director of the university’s Large Carnivore Conservation Lab, distributed the recommendation in an email Monday to the Department of Fish and Wildlife’s Wolf Advisory Group. Wielgus restated his position that a ranch put its cattle in harm’s way in the Colville National Forest, leading WDFW to shoot seven wolves in the Profanity Peak pack. WSU administrators last summer issued a statement calling Wielgus’ description of the events inaccurate. “He’s putting out inflammatory nonsense,” Cattle Producers of Washington President Scott Nielsen said Monday. “It’s the same nonsense that got Rob in trouble last summer.” Efforts to reach Wielgus were unsuccessful. Wielgus described his email as a press release from a private citizen, but based on his state-funded research...more

Mayor Garcetti's emergency proclamation has dusty Owens Valley scrambling to prepare for possible floods

As snow continued to fall on the eastern Sierra Nevada on Monday, platoons of earth movers, cranes and utility trucks fanned out across the Owens Valley, scrambling to empty reservoirs and clean out a lattice-work of ditches and pipelines in a frantic effort to protect the key source of Los Angeles’ water. With snowpack levels at 241% of normal, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti a week ago issued an emergency declaration allowing the Department of Water and Power to take immediate steps to shore up the aqueduct and its $1-billion dust-control project on dry Owens Lake, which L.A. drained to slake its thirst in the last century. DWP activities have always elicited concern in the Owens Valley, given the history of a water war that began when Los Angeles agents posed as ranchers and farmers to buy land and water rights in the area. Their goal was to build the aqueduct system to meet the needs of the growing metropolis 200 miles to the south. The stealth used to obtain the region’s land and water rights became grist for books and movies that portrayed the dark underbelly of Los Angeles’ formative years, and inspired deep-seated suspicions about the city’s motives that linger to this day. Officials insist that the current emergency poses a real threat not just to urban Los Angeles’ residents, but to the ranchers, farmers, outdoor enthusiasts and small-business owners living in the sage-scented high desert gap between the fang-like peaks, some taller than 14,000 feet, of the Sierra Nevada to west and the White and Inyo ranges to the east...more

Green groups promise guerrilla warfare tactics to stop Keystone pipeline

Environmental activists vowed over the weekend to fight the Keystone XL oil pipeline to the bitter end, insisting the Trump administration’s approval of the long-delayed project will not be the final word. Powerful green groups are launching a two-pronged strategy to block the pipeline in the streets and in the courts. First, they intend to use a state review process in Nebraska — where Keystone still does not have a legal route, despite federal approval of the project — to delay any movement forward. Nebraska state officials charged with approving the pipeline’s path say a decision shouldn’t be expected until September at the earliest, and environmentalists could drag that process out even longer. The second piece of their plan centers on the kind of guerrilla warfare tactics seen throughout last year during the fight over the Dakota Access pipeline. Activists say they’ll organize protests and even set up camps along Keystone’s proposed route, potentially blocking construction of the project if and when it’s set to begin..more.

Ranch Radio Song Of The Day #1815

Here is one my favorite Gene Autry songs - Cowboy Blues. The tune was recorded in Hollywood on July 2, 1946.

Monday, March 27, 2017

On Zinke and Roosevelt

Grist interviews historian and Theodore Roosevelt scholar David Brinkley, author of The Wilderness Warrior. They ask the following questions:

One thing that Zinke and Roosevelt definitely have in common is their political party. But it sounds strange nowadays that a noted conservationist like Roosevelt was in the GOP.

When did the Republican approach to the environment begin to change?

You mention climate change. Zinke has waffled on the subject. Is it fair for Zinke to say he’s committed to Roosevelt’s legacy without acknowledging how climate change will harm the American landscape he loves?

Roosevelt’s treatment of Native Americans was deplorable. Given modern movements like Dakota Access, do you think Zinke’s identification with TR could mean trouble for Native Americans? 

Read Brinkley's answers here

Landscapes, Wonders, and Dustups - Federal Public Lands

by and

Our federal public lands are breathtaking in their ecological scope, in their bountiful natural resources, and in their policy complexity. The history of how we arrived at current policy arrangements is also long and convoluted. According to the Congressional Research Service, today the four major federal land agencies manage about 27% percent the United States’ land mass, much of which is concentrated in the west. The U.S. Forest Service manages about 193 million acres, the National Park Service about 80 million acres, the Fish and Wildlife Service 89 million acres, and the Bureau of Land Management 248 million acres.
Americans have had a long conversation about the purpose of the federal estate. Yet, the seizure of Malheur National Wildlife Refuge buildings in southeastern Oregon by armed and self-appointed “constitutionalists” was outside that conversation to many people. It was viewed as a dangerous escalation in a long, admittedly passionate but rarely violent, discussion of federal or public land management in the western United States. The Malheur event prompted many non-westerners to ask who the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) was and why they manage so much land. It also brought to the forefront many questions from those unfamiliar with western land issues, the history of the federal lands, or public land management policies. 
Government management of public land predates the country itself, as both the British and American colonists regulated logging to preserve supplies of timber for building naval vessels. After the Revolutionary War, the new country quickly sought both to acquire more land (the “Acquisition phase”) and to ensure private sector ownership (the “Disposal phase”). Acquisition was accomplished by war or purchase, while Disposal was done to raise cash and promote new settlement. The indigenous inhabitants of these lands were also removed, usually by force.
In the 1860s a new policy of “Retention” developed, primarily in the west, and is best understood through Yellowstone National Park’s designation as not just the first national park in the U.S. but also the world. Other parks would follow, though in an ad hoc and piecemeal fashion. The National Park Service was created in 1916 to manage and conserve these parks and provide “enjoyment for future generations.” Other lands fell under the Retention policy, as well.

Appeals Court Embraces Free Speech, Rules Skim Milk is ‘Skim Milk'

by Baylen Linnekin

"The leftover product is skim milk: milk that has had the fat removed through skimming." If those words—from a unanimous 11th Circuit Court of Appeals ruling earlier this week—sound like some sort of dicta—words in a court decision which represent a judge's ideas or observations but aren't part of the holding of the case and which, therefore, carry little legal weight—then it may surprise you to learn the question of whether all-natural skim milk is skim milk actually go to the heart of the case in question. The case, Ocheesee Creamery v. Putnam, has its roots in 2012, when Florida's state agriculture department ordered Ocheesee, a small creamery in the state's panhandle, to stop selling its skim milk. The state claimed Ocheesee's skim milk ran afoul of Florida's standard of identity for skim milk, which requires creameries and dairies to add vitamin A to their skim milk. In response, Ocheesee, which prides itself on its all-natural milks, proposed instead of introducing vitamin A additive to its milk to label its skim milk as "Pasteurized Skim Milk, No Vitamin A Added." The state rejected that label, telling Ocheesee they could sell their skim milk only if it were labeled as "Non-Grade 'A' Milk Product, Natural Milk Vitamins Removed" or, later, as "imitation skim milk." For a state that argued it was in the business of protecting consumers, and that Ocheesee's use of the term "skim milk" to describe its skim milk (ingredients: skim milk) was misleading, it's worth noting both of Florida's recommended terms for a skim milk that contains only skim milk are patently and grossly misleading. Ocheesee was forced to sue the state. Last year, the U.S. District Court sided with the Florida regulators. The appeals court win this week is an important victory not just for Ocheesee Creamery but also for free speech, consumers, small businesses, and food freedom. It's also a big win for the Institute for Justice, which represented the plaintiff creamery. "This decision is a total vindication for Ocheesee Creamery and a complete rejection of the Florida Department of Agriculture's suppression of speech," said Justin Pearson, a senior IJ attorney, in a statement this week. "Today, thanks to the 11th Circuit, [Ocheesee owner] Mary Lou [Wesselhoeft] is no longer denied her First Amendment right to tell the truth."...more

Utah governor asks Interior Secretary to visit Bears Ears

Utah Gov. Gary Herbert made a last-minute trip to Washington this week, where he urged Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke to visit Utah's Bears Ears National Monument. Herbert told reporters a conference call from Washington that he did not speak one-on-one with President Donald Trump about a push from Utah GOP officials to repeal the southern Utah monument. President Barack Obama named the monument in December, but Herbert and other locals want Trump to rescind it. Herbert says Zinke seems to agree with Utah officials that the sacred tribal lands at Bears Ears need protections. The governor wants to see Congress designation protections, not a president. He says he'll make that case to Zinke when he visits. Herbert says Trump invited him to Washington to watch the president sign legislation Monday repealing some land management and education rules. AP

Insiders rip federal power agency over theft, threats

The receipts just didn’t make sense: Employees at a federal power agency in Phoenix were using U.S. government purchase cards to buy millions of dollars’ worth of items from sporting good stores like Bass Pro Shop or Cabela's, and from specialty auto shops. Ammunition. Scopes for assault rifles. Engine superchargers. Radar detectors. The merchandise had nothing to do with electrical grids or transmission lines. Nate Elam, former assistant regional manager at the Western Area Power Administration office in Phoenix, shakes his head remembering his shock reviewing receipts submitted by his employees in 2014. Then he mentions something even more alarming: Instead of aggressively going after corruption, Elam alleges, WAPA's bosses slow-walked the investigation, retaliated against those who uncovered fraud, and failed to protect them from threats. “You see stuff everywhere,” said Elam, a 14-year federal employee who once worked for the U.S. Attorney’s Office. "But I’d never seen the corruption — or the lack of wanting to do anything about it — like I did in the Department of Energy.” Keith Cloud, WAPA's chief of security who worked with Elam to expose credit-card abuse, said the situation was harrowing due to a gun culture within the agency. As some employees began making threats and using intimidation tactics, Cloud said, administrators delayed protective measures and held almost no one accountable“We asked them to look into all of this," Cloud said. "What’s appalling to me is, I cannot protect my staff because they just won’t do anything.” Finally, after FBI counterterrorism agents began investigating, WAPA's Desert Southwest Office hired armed guards and commissioned a threat assessment. Mark Gabriel, chief executive officer for the federal agency, says the entire controversy has been overblown, the theft outbreak was limited and reforms are in place. He also noted that two former employees have been criminally charged in connection with purchase-card irregularities. "Yes, there were criminal activities, unfortunately," Gabriel noted in a recent interview. "We investigated ourselves, and we were able to educate ourselves. I believe it's a piece of history." Gabriel declined to address why his security chief, assistant regional manager and top procurement officer have jeopardized their careers making contrary allegations. Or why members of Congress are hounding his agency for answers...more

EPA chief: Pres. Trump to undo former Pres. Obama’s plan to curb global warming

President Donald Trump in the coming days will sign a new executive order that unravels his predecessor’s sweeping plan to curb global warming, the head of the Environmental Protection Agency said Sunday, March 26th. EPA chief Scott Pruitt said the executive order to be signed Tuesday, March 28th will undo former President Barack Obama’s administration’s Clean Power Plan, an environmental regulation that restricts greenhouse gas emissions at coal-fired power plants. The 2015 rule has been on hold since last year while a federal appeals court considers a challenge by coal-friendly Republican-led states and more than 100 companies. Speaking on ABC’s “This Week,” Pruitt said President Trump’s intention is to bring back coal-mining jobs and reduce the cost of electricity. Supporters of former President Obama’s plan, including some Democratic-led states and environmental groups, argue it would spur thousands of clean-energy jobs and help the U.S. meet ambitious goals to reduce carbon pollution set by an international agreement reached in Paris in late 2015. Pruitt on Sunday called the Paris climate accord a “bad deal” because he said it went too easy on China and India, who like the U.S. are among the world’s leading producers of carbon dioxide. “So we’ve penalized ourselves through lost jobs while China and India didn’t take steps to address the issue internationally. So Paris was just a bad deal, in my estimation,” he said. AP

Ranch Radio Song Of The Day #1814

Its Swingin' Monday and here's Dale Watson & Ray Benson with Sittin' and Thinkin' About You. The tune is on their new, 2017 CD Dale & Ray.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Cowgirl Sass & Savvy

Apologize first 

 by Julie Carter

Like most of the critters at the ranch, some cowboys are smarter than others. Tom happened to be one of the smarter ones.

He and Sue Ann worked together almost every day on a big ranch. He had figured out that at some point during the day the cattle, the horses or the hired help would do something that would require him to yell at Sue Ann.

I've mentioned before that a cowboy has this tendency to bark orders or some random correction at his wife so that the people that need to hear it won't be offended but will still become informed.
Sue Ann's historical reaction to this tactic wasn't something Tom recalled with pleasantries. In view of the fact that most days she was the best help he had, he considered several options of minimizing the effect of his methods.

One morning at breakfast he decided to "pre-apologize" for any mistakes he might make during the day.

A pre-apology could and would cover almost everything, save time during the working day and enable him to be comfortable in his recliner at day's end while she fixed supper instead of using that time to soothe her at the saddle house.

What goes up must come down is not a solid physics theory when it comes to cattle, and especially yearlings. Sometimes the mistake of parking a semi-truck of cattle to be unloaded with the trailer pointed downhill makes for an exciting moment. Nothing short of a thunderbolt will stop the stampede before they get to the bottom.

Give those same cattle a hill or mountain to climb and they'll find the top and take up permanent residence without any intention of coming back down unless, first, it becomes their idea. When it's their idea, especially if you get a bunch of them gathered up on the top of the hill and pointed downward, refer to the previous paragraph and thunderbolt theory.

On this particular day, Fall was approaching. Tom and Sue Ann had started moving the cattle from the high country to shipping pastures at lower elevations. The hired help had gathered up as day was breaking, slickers tied to the backs of their saddles for the inevitable afternoon showers.

Tom, Sue Ann and crew worked their way up the mountain trail to get above the cattle. 

Yearlings can be pretty snakey in the brush. They have been known to sneak around behind the riders or even end up on the side of a cliff-like place where the only method to get them to move is the very un-cowboy method of throwing rocks at them. That is one of those cowboy skills you don't hear talked about much.

When a sizeable bunch had been collected to a clearing, the hands started moving the cattle down a steep ridge top complete with plenty of rocks and deadfall. Sue Ann was riding point to the left of the front of the herd, charged with keeping them headed in the right direction.

As will happen, something that nobody but the cattle saw or heard, spooked them and the race was on. At a dead run downhill they ran but, of course, not in any direction they needed to be going.
Sue Ann jumped up in the front of her saddle and rode hell-bent-for- leather through the treacherous steep terrain trying to head the cattle. In a effort to not kill herself or her horse in the rescue, she did have to pull up in a few places and select a less lethal path through a natural gauntlet of dangers.

Finally, a little further down the hill than Tom had planned, everything came to a halt. Tom, already calculating the pounds and dollars that just ran off the cattle, simply couldn't help himself even when he knew better. He rode over to Sue Ann and asked her why she let the cattle run and why she didn't get them stopped sooner. 

It was good thinking on his part that he had already pre-apologized.

Julie, counting cowboy apologies on one hand, can be reached for comment at

Pedro and Tommy

Pedro and Tommy
White Signal Intercession
Closed door Resolution
By Stephen L. Wilmeth

            Pedro and Tommy are as close to identifying these yesteryear characters as we are going to get.
            The story starts long ago at a Fourth of July celebration in Silver City on a table at the old Monterrey Hotel where Pedro was hoisted to demonstrate his prowess of dancing the jig. The band had taken a break and the famous local Hays, he of Kansas birth, had reckoned that young Pedro had learned enough of his dance steps that an exhibition was needed.
            So, the two began the Hays jig.
            The crowd reaction was apparently sufficient to stimulate the duo into a more vigorous rendition only to have Pedro crash into the beer barrel. Off the table and onto the floor the beer barrel rolled spilling its contents. The enthusiasm of the crowd was immediately dampened and the dancing duo was forced to retreat as the growing dismay was multiplied by each roll of the barrel.
            There is insufficient evidence to discern where Hays escaped, but Pedro found safety in the second story room where his cohort Tommy was expanding his own celebratory exercise. There he sat in an open window with a water pitcher calculating and perfecting his aim at unsuspecting passersby on the sidewalk below.
            During another episode, Tommy secured a sack of firecrackers and was testing them out front of one of the theaters on Bullard. As the testing continued, word got out on the police net, and, since the chief was close, he cruised by to affect a remedy.
            Shortly thereafter, witnesses saw Tommy leaning against the car chatting with the chief. The conversation seemed friendly with both the chief and the young cowboy smiling while conversing.
            As he left, he was heard to say, “Remember you light another one of those and I’ll have you tossed in the tank.”
            “Yes, sir, you don’t worry about us, Chief,” Tommy assured.
            About that time, young White Signal Pancho walked up and asked the boys what was going on. He was informed that they had taken an opportunity to check the fireworks ordinance.
            “What did you find out?” Pancho asked.
            “The Chief said the ordinance has been waived and you can shoot these anywhere,” was the response. “In fact, we’re finished and goin’ in to see the movie. Here, you can have ours.”
            In less time than it took Pedro and Tommy to hand their sack over and walk into the theater, White Signal Pancho lit his first one. In about the same amount of time, a siren was heard coming back up the street from city hall.
            Pedro and Tommy
            There are a number of other stories about the two, but one is their contribution to sobriety. The story took place at the previously mentioned White Signal and its famous dance hall. In those days, it was the practice to line refreshments up in preparing for breaks in the dancing. In this case, it was a line of beer being poured into paper cups in anticipation of rhe pending rush. Tommy, the elder statesman of the two, concluded the beer needed sampling before it was served so they slipped under the long table and made their way to the expanding line of cups all the while being covered in their mission by the long table cloth. They secured as many cups as they could handle and slipped back out the same way they came. Out back, they sampled each cup in turn, but Tommy got to worrying that maybe somebody might have counted the cups and he didn’t want to leave any evidence of their taste test operation.
            They resorted to an ingenious plan. They took only a couple of swallows from each and then refilled the cups with the only thing they had that would match the frothy texture and golden color of the beer. They then carried the cups back into the hall and replaced them in the line of fresh cups, and retreated to an advantageous position to observe the results. Their claim was that they cured a number of folks from ever drinking beer again.
            Wouldn’t it be nice if a similar lesson could be passed along to Congress?
            Those characters are absolutely without adult leadership. They are being whipsawed like a bunch of White Signal Pancho clones. Their predicament is made worse by the nearly 2.2 million Pedro and Tommy counterparts that fill government employment rolls. Being built without sight of any relief, this system of government with its layers of self protection has become an immoveable, seething monster. It is self perpetuating and its defenses are proving to be incalculable.
            The indefensible cadre of acting leaders is the party in the majority position. The other cast of characters remain true to their kaleidoscope of constitutional destruction, but the party in power is making a mockery of their promises.
            We are shaking out heads.
            Closed Door Resolution
            It is time for a closed door GOP resolution session.
            Since White Signal has become a theme this morning, a trip down memory lane 32 miles south of the dance hall is the example. It was there that a stable of agents from the old Border Patrol concluded an internal review by pulling the shades and locking the doors of their Lordsburg office. They commenced to work their differences out and didn’t emerge until there was an agreement.
            When it was over, nobody said much.
            The place was a bit worse from wear and tear with broken desks, windows, numerous lips and at least one arm, but the slate was cleaned. Order was restored and the team agreed to work together. Balance was achieved and the job got done.
            That is what congress needs, and, then, they need to appoint a chief that can handle casts of unaccompanied minors.

            Stephen L. Wilmeth is a rancher from southern New Mexico. “There will be some who can unmask these characters, but it won’t be me.”