Thursday, December 18, 2014

Obama pardons man for 1996 archaeological crime in Utah

A Colorado man received a presidential pardon Wednesday for a 1997 Utah crime. David Neil Mercer, of Grand Junction, Colo., was sentenced to 36 months of probation in April 1997 for his role in damaging American Indian remnants in February 1996 on federal land in Grand County. Mercer also was ordered to pay just under $1,500 in restitution to the U.S. Bureau of Land Management, and was fined $2,500. On Wednesday, Mercer was one of 12 people to whom President Barack Obama granted pardons. Eight others were given commutations by the president.  Source

Water pipeline leads to years of court battles

The Southern Nevada Water Authority is moving ahead with plans to import water to the Las Vegas valley from underground aquifers in rural parts of Nevada. But is the plan still workable after decades of court battles over the environmental impact of a giant pipeline? The pipeline would run across 300 miles of public land and requires federal approval. There are serious concerns about the project -- which include predictions of devastating environmental effects. But amid cheers about progress on a third intake to draw water from Lake Mead, the water authority took action with much less fanfare on another multi-billion dollar project. The board decided to move forward with a plan to build a 300-mile long pipeline to pump water to Las Vegas from sources in rural Nevada. "The water of the state of Nevada belongs to the people of the state of Nevada," said John Entsminger, SNWA general manager. "Seven out of every 10 people live here in the Las Vegas valley." "This pipeline is going to cost in excess of $16 billion to build and the water it's going to pump is of very limited nature and the reason you are pumping it is to sustain unreasonable growth in the Las Vegas valley. It just doesn't make sense," said Rob Mrowka, Center for Biological Diversity. Critics of the pipeline say sucking water out of rural aquifers will dry up streams and wells vital to wildlife and agriculture. "The water table will be 200 feet down, in excess of 200 feet. Everything will die," said Lincoln County rancher Farrel Lytle. So far, not an inch of pipe has been laid in the project despite roughly $100 million being spent on research, water rights and court battles with opponents...more

"The water of the state of Nevada belongs to the people of the state of Nevada," said John Entsminger, SNWA general manager.

That statement highlights the problem.  How many times have you heard that certain lands "belong to all the people"?  That is just a fancy way to say government ownership.  

Government ownership of resources such as land, water and wildlife leads to political management, which then leads to gross inefficiencies and oft times corruption.

You have a choice:  Let the highest and best use of these resources be determined by the market, or let it be determined by a political hack.

California needs 11 trillion gallons of water: NASA

California needs 11 trillion gallons of water to recover from its three-year drought, the US space agency said Tuesday after studying water resources by using satellite data. The more than 40-trillion-liter volume is a huge quantity of water, larger, for example, than the total amount held behind China's historic Three Gorges Dam. The entire southwestern United States is far drier than normal, with groundwater levels across the region in the lowest two to 10 percent since 1949, scientists said. Meanwhile, other NASA satellite data showed that so far this year, the snowpack in California's Sierra Nevada range is only half previous estimates...more

Volume of world's oldest water estimated

The world's oldest water, which is locked deep within the Earth's crust, is present at a far greater volume than was thought, scientists report. The liquid, some of which is billions of years old, is found many kilometres beneath the ground. Researchers estimate there is about 11m cubic kilometres (2.5m cu miles) of it - more water than all the world's rivers, swamps and lakes put together. The study was presented at the American Geophysical Union Fall Meeting. It has also been published in the journal Nature. The team found that the water was reacting with the rock to release hydrogen: a potential food source. It means that great swathes of the deep crust could be harbouring life. Prof Barbara Sherwood Lollar, from the University of Toronto, in Canada, said: "This is a vast quantity of rock that we've sometimes overlooked both in terms of its ability to tell us about past processes - the rocks are so ancient they contain records of fluid and the atmosphere from the earliest parts of Earth's history. "But simultaneously, they also provide us with information about the chemistry that can support life. "And that's why we refer to it as 'the sleeping giant' that has been rumbling away but hasn't really been characterised until this point." The crust that forms the continents contains some of the oldest rocks on our planet. But as scientists probe ever deeper - through boreholes and mines - they're discovering water that is almost as ancient. The oldest water, discovered 2.4km down in a deep mine in Canada, has been dated to between one billion and 2.5bn years old...more

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Trial for ATV protest ride postponed until March

A trial has been postponed for four men charged in an ATV protest ride through an off-limits area of southeastern Utah last May. The men were originally scheduled to stand trial for the Recapture Canyon protest on Dec. 22, but a judge has pushed that back to late March. In the meantime, a judge will hear arguments about whether one of the men charged should be allowed to keep a court-appointed attorney. The four men have pleaded not guilty to charges of conspiracy and illegal use of all-terrain vehicles. They are among some 50 people who rode ATVs into Recapture Canyon to protest what they call the federal government's overreaching control of public lands...more

It's Official. Dunn Won

Although just about every news organization in the state, including The New Mexican, was reporting last night that Republican Aubrey Dunn, Jr. had won the recount for state land commissioner, the Secretary of State's Office announced this morning that this officially didn't happen until about midnight, when Santa Fe County completed its work. Dunn beat incumbent Democrat Ray Powell, Jr. by 656 votes. That means Powell gained 48 votes in the recount...more

Obama bars oil, gas development in Alaska's Bristol Bay

President Obama has placed an indefinite ban on oil and gas development in Alaska's Bristol Bay. Environmental groups hailed the move Tuesday, billed by the president as a necessary safeguard, while the state's U.S. senators offered a mixed response. “These waters are too special and too valuable to auction off to the highest bidder,” Obama said in a surprise video announcement from the Oval Office posted to the White House website. Bristol Bay is part of the 32.5 million-acre North Aleutian Basin Planning Area in Southwest Alaska. Obama's predecessor, George W. Bush, had hoped to open the region for leasing. Newly inaugurated Alaska Gov. Bill Walker responded positively to Obama's move, a sharp departure from previous Gov. Sean Parnell's often adversarial take on federal actions concerning Alaska. Walker said he had received advance notice of the decision from Jewell. “The pristine waters of Bristol Bay feed some of the world’s most premier fisheries," Walker said in a statement. "I look forward to working cooperatively -- in Alaska’s clear interest -- with the federal government to safely and economically develop regions of our state and offshore waters for oil and gas. Bristol Bay, however, is not that place.”...more

Utah Demands Feds Surrender Lands by Dec. 31


With the federal government engaged in a de facto unconstitutional occupation of some two thirds of Utah’s territory, citizens of the state and their elected representatives have had just about enough. So, on December 31, the State of Utah is formally demanding that Washington, D.C., relinquish control over more than 30 million acres of valuable land currently controlled by various federal bureaucracies.

While apparatchiks for an all-powerful U.S. government and far-left activists are fuming over the plan, Utah lawmakers, citizens, and experts say the time has come for the state to manage — and profit from — its own resources. Constitutionally speaking, experts say the lands should have gone to state control generations ago, as the federal government promised when Utah became a state.

The escalating battle now brewing between the feds and Utah formally got underway in in 2012, when Republican Gov. Gary Herbert, riding a wave of public outrage over federal abuses and land grabs, signed the popular Transfer of Public Lands Act. Among other elements, the law calls on the federal government to hand over control of public lands purportedly owned by the U.S. government within Utah’s borders.

The law also commissioned a study, released this month, examining various aspects of the process and finances — including how Utah would manage the land it is calling on the federal government to relinquish. According to the study, contrary to the hysterical claims of pseudo-environmentalists and federal supremacists demanding ever greater federal land grabs, transferring the lands to Utah would likely be “profitable” for the state.

Indeed, if Utah controlled its own lands — as opposed to bureaucrats and politicians in faraway Washington, D.C., who siphon away much of the state’s wealth and mismanage the resources — the state could easily bring in enough revenue to cover the costs of managing the lands, and then some. According to the researchers, the vast swaths of federally owned land represent an overall “drag” on the state’s economy — especially in the 20 out of 29 counties where the feds purport to own more than 40 percent of the land.

...“We’re going to move forward and use all the resources at our disposal,” explained Utah Rep. Ken Ivory, who sponsored the 2012 law and also leads the American Lands Council, a group seeking to strip the feds of their gargantuan land holdings across the Western United States. Among other possibilities, state leaders are exploring a plan to hire a private law firm to lead the charge in court if Washington, D.C., refuses to surrender the lands by the deadline set in the law.

The first step in the process is to see whether the federal government will voluntarily comply with the Constitution and Utah’s law mandating that it be upheld. “That’s what you do any time you’re negotiating with a partner. You set a date,” explained Rep. Ivory. “Unfortunately, our federal partner has decided they don’t want to negotiate in good faith. So we’ll move forward with the four-step plan that the governor laid out.”

Yak Dung Is Making Climate Change Worse (the actual headline)

It gets pretty cold this time of year in Tibet. For centuries, the solution to this problem was a win-win: just burn that huge pile of yak dung that’s been accumulating all summer. For millions of nomadic Tibetans, it’s a system that works. But that system comes at a hefty cost. Tibetan homes have some of the worst indoor air pollution in the world, and the soot the dung fires release is a big contributor to climate change. Yak dung, when used as fuel, is arguably dirtier than coal but is definitely much cheaper. Particulate pollution from burning animal dung greatly increases the risk of lung cancer and other respiratory ailments, the occurrence of which can be slowed by switching to cleaner ways of heating homes. Based on the measurements her team obtained, Saikawa suspects that if yak dung burning is properly accounted for, Tibet’s contribution to regional black carbon emissions is about three times greater than official estimates that are used in climate models. Yak dung burning in Tibet alone may produce an additional 1,100 tons of black carbon per year...more 

 Listen to my tale
As the enviros wail
Cuz according to the wise
Yak dung is our demise
And soon you'll be hung
For burning yak dung

Take it away Floyd Traynor.

Never been to Tibet, but if I was to get there I'd be yucking it up with the yakboys over this issue.

Drakes Bay oyster farm closes doors after long wilderness struggle

It's the end of the line for Drake's Bay Oyster Co. On Dec. 31, after a long battle with the National Park Service, the California Coastal Commission, the Department of the Interior and wilderness advocates, owner Kevin Lunny and his family will vacate the starkly beautiful Drake's Estero, a 2,500-acre estuary where some of the tastiest oysters on the West Coast have been farmed for more than half a century. A 40-year lease agreement between the feds and the oyster farm's original owners has expired. Former Interior Secretary Ken Salazar could have extended the lease for a decade, which was allowed by 2009 legislation that Democratic U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein sponsored. But in 2011, Salazar — fearing a policy precedent — decided that wilderness and oyster farming were mutually exclusive. Lunny, 56, whose family runs the first organic-certified beef ranch in California, lost a fight between forces usually on the same side: sustainable farming enthusiasts and environmentalists. Lunny thought he had a fair shot to renew the lease because ranchers in other parts of the protected seashore were successful in doing so. To Lunny supporters, the bad guy was the government, scheming to take away a precious local mariculture resource. To the farm's opponents, the Lunnys became the villains. Founding members of Marin County's sustainable food movement, they were trashed as recalcitrant, water-polluting moochers who would exploit (and ruin) one of Marin County's most beautiful seascapes. In some ways, Drake's Bay Oyster Co. is a casualty of hardening attitudes about human intrusion into wilderness. In 1962, Congress created Point Reyes National Seashore, a wind-swept coastline that feels remote despite its location an hour north of San Francisco. Fourteen years later, President Ford signed the Point Reyes Wilderness Act, encompassing Drake's Estero, which was designated as a "potential wilderness" because it contained a commercial enterprise. But was the oyster company really meant to disappear at the end of its lease? In 2011, retired legislators who helped establish the Point Reyes National Seashore told Interior Secretary Salazar that they had always intended for the oyster farm to stay in business. "The issue of what to do with the oyster farm wasn't even under contention," former Rep. John Burton told the Marin Independent Journal. "Several things were grandfathered in, and aquaculture — oyster culture — was one of them."...more

Notice the method used:  First designate a National Seashore and then come in later with a Wilderness designation.  A similar model is now in place for the arid West:  First designate a National Monument and then when the time is ripe hit us with Wilderness.

In the case above they denied the permit because of the "policy precedent" it would set.  It would have allowed a commercial enterprise, i.e. people, to continue existing.  Once the permit is denied and the oyster farm is gone, it will no longer be "potential wilderne" but will become Wilderness, which was the goal all along.

Plan to use helicopters in Arizona wilderness draws complaints

Using helicopters to reach bighorn sheep in remote wilderness would ruin the solitude of areas normally free from human impact, according to complaints from local and regional environmental groups. Five organizations filed an objection Monday against a U.S. Forest Service proposal to allow up to 450 helicopter landings over 10 years in the Tonto National Forest's designated wilderness areas. Land protected under the 1964 Wilderness Act is generally off-limits to the motorized vehicles and recreational activities allowed in other parts of the forest. The Arizona Game and Fish Department requested the exception for its bighorn-sheep management and relocation efforts. Sheep from herds throughout the state are being captured and reintroduced to the Santa Catalina mountains near Tucson, where the species disappeared in the 1990s. The proposal covers nearly 200,000 acres of bighorn-sheep habitat on parts of the Four Peaks, Hellsgate, Mazatzal, Salt River Canyon and Superstition Wilderness areas. In their complaint, environmental groups said the use of helicopters would harm the "beauty, peace and solitude found only in designated Wilderness areas."...more

..."beauty, peace and solitude found only in designated Wilderness areas."  What bunk. They can be found in abundance on other federal lands and on millions of acres of private property. 

Ah, Wilderness! Forest Service Re-examining Standards for Media Access to Wilderness Areas

If you as a broadcaster, producer, or artist want to head into a congressionally-designated wilderness area to create some programming (both newsgathering and other programming), you will likely have to get a permit to do so from the National Forest Service (NFS). And yes, the power to require a permit also encompasses the power to require a fee for that permit, so you can expect to have to pay for the privilege. For years the standards imposed by the NFS on requests for such permits have been considerably subjective, which is never a good thing: the First Amendment frowns on governmentally-imposed limitations on freedom of expression and the press, especially when those limitations can be arbitrarily applied. To its credit, though, the NFS is considering tightening up its criteria. Whether the end result will assure broadcasters a constitutionally acceptable set of standards remains to be seen. But any broadcaster operating near a federal wilderness area – or who might at some point want to send a crew into such an area – should be aware of the NFS’s proceeding. In other words, as matters now stand, if any broadcaster wants to send a crew into a wilderness area to produce a piece on, say, migratory birds, a show about your local Forest Service lands akin to The National Parks documentary by Ken Burns, or some other newsworthy topic that doesn’t happen to be “breaking news”, the broadcaster may be required to make the necessary showing. The broadcaster will then have to keep its fingers crossed, hoping that the NFS will be satisfied that the proposed activities: (a) meet certain threshold screening criteria; (b) won’t harm the land, (c) won’t interfere with others’ use and enjoyment of the land, (d) won’t create any risk and (e) will “contribute[ ] to the purposes for which the wilderness area was established”. Let’s face it, those standards – and particularly that last one – are far from definite, which means that the NFS has a lot of wiggle room...more

Pro-mining budget bill awaits President Obama’s signature

On a 56-40 vote late Saturday, the U.S. Senate passed a $1.1 trillion spending package which will fund most of the federal government until September 2015. The measure now awaits the president’s signature. The Senate turmoil and fighting reaped some benefits for mining as a rider imposing a one-year ban on new Endangered Species Act protection for the sage grouse survived in the “omnibus bill”. The rider was introduced by Rep. Mark Amodei, R-Nevada, a former president of the Nevada Mining Association. Nevertheless, Rep. Rob Bishop, R-Utah, the incoming chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee, remarked last week that “one year is not enough to find out the viability of the efficacy of programs that are out there.” Meanwhile, the Bureau of Land Management and the U.S. Forest Service, which manage most of the sage grouse habitat, will continue to revise 100 land-use plans covering 67 million acres in 11 western states to protect and restore sage grouse habitat, which is generally sage brush habitat. The omnibus spending bill allocates $15 million to the BLM to support state conservation plans that promote sustainable sage-grouse populations “through conservation of sensitive habitat and to avoid an Endangered Species Act listing designation of the species.” The BLM is already deferring oil and gas leasing on millions of acres of public lands...The rider also blocks the Army Corps of Engineers from moving forward on any rules that would redefine fill material under the Clean Water Act, which Republicans charge would hurt coal mining operations. Also surviving in the appropriations bill is a policy rider that would prohibit the Corps of Engineers from moving ahead on their “Waters of the U.S.” proposed rule that was released for comment by the Corps and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in April...more

Ranchers mostly pleased with omnibus bill

NCBA Director of Communications Chase Adams said the bill also prevents funding for EPA to require producers to obtain greenhouse gas permits for livestock and mandatory reporting of greenhouse gas emissions from manure-management systems. It also maintains range and grazing management funding at FY 2014 levels, providing necessary resources for the agencies to continue working through a backlog of environmental analysis regarding permitted grazing, PLC stated. The bill also restores $1 million to compensate ranchers for livestock killed by wolves and rejects the administration’s proposal to add a $1-per-animal unit month tax on livestock grazing. AUM is used to regulate grazing on public land based on the amount of forage consumed. The American Sheep Industry Association is pleased with those initiatives and also recognizes some particular wins for the sheep industry. The bill urges the Forest Service to work with USDA on the issue of disease transmission between domestic sheep and bighorn sheep, a conflict that has adversely affected sheep producers’ grazing permits, Orwick said. The bill also denies President Obama’s budget request for the termination and redirection of sheep research programs or the closure of the U.S. Sheep Experiment Station in Dubois, Idaho. NCBA and PLC are also applauding the bill’s provisions that: instructs the secretary of agriculture to submit recommendations for changes in federal law to bring country-of-origin labeling into compliance with World Trade Organization rules; directs the secretary to stop any further efforts to implement a second beef checkoff program; and continues to defund marketing-reform provisions under the Grain Inspection, Packers & Stockyards Administration...more

Congress Launches Stealth Assault on Progressive Food Policy

Tucked into the massive $1.1 trillion spending bill recently passed by both the House and the Senate are a number of retrograde measures—intended to mollify Big Ag and its allies while throwing up a bunch of roadblocks against progressives trying to move the country toward a saner food policy. First on the list: a “congressional directive” that instructs the Obama administration to ignore any environmental factors as it works to issue a new set of national dietary guidelines next year. Never before has any administration taken into account the impact of its dietary recommendations on the environment; this year marked the first time that the government-appointed panel of nutrition experts decided to consider the environmental ramifications of their proposed guidelines. Not only that, but the spending bill also prohibits the government from requiring farmers to report “greenhouse gas emissions form manure management systems,” according to The New York Times, or from requiring ranchers to obtain greenhouse gas permits from methane released from their operations. This despite that agriculture is the primary source of methane emissions—and methane is a greenhouse gas that’s 20 times more potent than carbon...more

Third horse ecosanctuary approved by US authorities

Federal authorities in the US have given the nod to a third privately run ecosanctuary which intends to provides a home to wild horses. The new sanctuary is to be located in Lander, Wyoming, on the 900-acre Double D Ranch. It would initially hold up to 100 horses, with the first horses arriving as early as the spring of 2015. The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) says the ecosanctuary will be run by Dwayne and Denise Oldham, who own and lease portions of the Double D Ranch. It would be the second BLM-private ecosanctuary to be located in Wyoming; a 290-horse ranch is already operated by Richard and Jana Wilson on the 4000-acre Deerwood Ranch near Centennial, Wyoming. A third ecosanctuary, known as the Mowdy Ranch, operated by Clay and Kit Mowdy, holds 153 horses on 1280 acres and is located 12 miles northeast of Coalgate, Oklahoma. “This advances our efforts to improve the BLM’s management of and care for America’s wild horses and burros,” BLM director Neil Kornze said...more

EU Bans Horsemeat Processed in Mexico

An audit from the European Union's (EU) Food and Veterinary Office (FVO) has resulted in a ban on the sale of horsemeat processed in Mexico. But one slaughter proponent doesn't believe the ban will stop the flow of horsemeat sold offshore or improve the welfare of American horses intended for processing. The FVO states that about 87% of the horses processed in Mexico originated in the United States. In its 2014 audit, the FVO raised “serious concerns” about Mexican horse processing, from vendor veracity about horses' medical and drug treatment records to the traceability of horses to a specific vendor. While horse slaughter opponents praised the ban, processing proponent David Duquette, equine program director for Protect the Harvest (an organization that counters slaughter opponents), believes the EU ban will have unintended consequences for American horses. Rather than stemming the flow of America horses to processing plants in Mexico, Duquette believes the ban will simply increase supply of horsemeat for sale in other markets. “All this means is that Mexican horsemeat won't be sold to the EU,” he opined. “Buyers can still purchase horses for processing in Mexico for the Russian and the Chinese markets, which are both much bigger markets.” He also believes the ban will have welfare consequences for American horses intended for processing in Mexico: “The (Russian and Chinese) markets don't have the same animal welfare regulations the EU has, and the ban will just eliminate all the welfare regulations the EU has. The ban will hurt the horses anti-slaughter groups are trying to help.”...more

Legislation will allow ranchers, farmers to expense equipment purchased in 2014

A bill that would allow farmers, ranchers and other small businesses to expense equipment for their operations is on its way to President Barack Obama’s desk. The Senate passed the one-year Tax Increase Prevention Act in a 76-16 vote on Tuesday night. The measure extends Section 179, meaning small businesses, including ranchers and farmers, may expense purchases made in 2014. Section 179 allows expensing and depreciation expense for purchase and repairs up to $500,000 of acquired business property. Not passing a bill for 2014 would not only hurt farmers and ranchers but implement dealers, Hoeven said. “It is going to cut sales of farm equipment drastically if the farmers don’t get a tax incentive to purchase equipment,” Dennis Miller, owner of Southwest Ag Repair Inc. in Dickinson, said in a statement Tuesday...more

Ranch Radio Song Of The Day #1335

Our selection today is Jimmy Wakely - It's Christmas, from the album Christmas On The Range

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Sparring begins in civil lawsuit alleging trespassing by Western Watershed Project

The Western Watershed Projects has moved to dismiss a lawsuit that was filed against it this summer by five Fremont and Sublette county ranch interests. A WWP spokesman also said a news release issued by the plaintiffs in the case contained factual errors and misrepresented the project’s financial standing. In the motion, the defendants claimed the ranchers “have utterly failed to substantiate their claims and the case should be dismissed.” According to the defendants, they were also targeted by the ranchers “for exposing poor water quality conditions on public lands that violate federal law and create health risks for water users, conditions the livestock industry hopes to hide through its retaliatory lawsuit.” The motion to dismiss “demonstrates that the Plaintiffs have provided no concrete evidence of trespass, have ignored established public rights of way, and have failed to demonstrate any actual damage caused by the alleged trespass,” according to the WWP’s filing. In June, the ranchers filed a civil trespass lawsuit against Jonathan Ratner, the WWP Director for Wyoming, Utah and Colorado, and John Does 1-10 with the Western Watersheds Project, Inc. “for intentionally and without landowner permission trespassing and entering private property.” In a July response filed by WWP, the group alleges the case is an attempt to silence them. However, according to the landowners’ attorney, Karen Budd-Falen, this lawsuit is strictly about trespass. “Private citizens do not have the right to cross private property without permission,” said Budd-Falen. According to the plaintiff’s information, trespasses by WWP occurred while collecting and submitting water quality samples to the Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ). Trespasses also occurred while collecting range monitoring data. Some of the data collection was on private lands, they allege. According to a news release from the plaintiffs, “In their response, Western Watersheds Project alleges legal cost is too much for them so pro bono representation is necessary for their organization. They fail to mention they have four attorneys on staff and frequently receive money from the federal government for filing lawsuits.” The Plaintiffs alleged WWP has collected $2.3 million in taxpayer funds by “filing” lawsuits...more

Nevada Cattlemen's Association favors rider in defense bill

Although defense spending has nothing to do with the livestock industry, a rider attached to the 2015 National Defense Authorization Act is good news for Nevada ranchers. The yearly bill passed through both houses of Congress this month and includes amendments to the Federal Land Policy and Management Act’s section regarding grazing permits and leases. Among the provisions, the proposed changes would restore some grazing permits on public lands. “The terms and conditions in a grazing permit or lease that has expired, or was terminated due to a grazing preference transfer, shall be continued under a new permit or lease until the date on which the Secretary concerned completes any environmental analysis and documentation for the permit or lease,” it reads. The amendments would also allow federal land agencies to grant livestock operators a “categorical exclusion” – which don’t require an extensive environmental assessment or environmental impact statement – in the permitting process. In the same vein, ranchers whose livestock cross public land could be granted a categorical exclusion. Nevada Cattlemen’s Association President Ron Torell expressed support for the NDAA add-ons. “It’s good news all around,” he said. “It makes it faster to renew permits.” Because so much of the land in northeastern Nevada is federally managed, many ranchers work with agencies so they can run their cattle or sheep on portions of public land. Any changes that can expedite the re-permitting process, Torell said, are a positive for the industry. Environmental groups, however, view the livestock operators’ gain to be the sage grouse’s loss. Randi Spivak, Center for Biological Diversity public lands director, blamed livestock for spoiling various aspects of the environment, such as degrading water and spreading invasive plants, and specifically harmful to sage grouse. “This is a terrible deal for the American public and a devastating blow to the sage grouse,” Spivak said in a statement...more

Say you're running 200 head on federal land and your permit comes up for renewal with essentially the same terms and conditions.  That situation didn't evoke NEPA, as you were just continuing an activity that was already occurring.  Then the same enviros who are hollerin' now filed suit.  The Forest Service caved and the BLM soon followed along.  Now we spend millions of dollars to allow something to continue. Ridiculous.  NEPA analysis should occur at the land use planning level or when there is a significant new activity on the allotment.

A vast land grab to ‘protect’ water

by William Perry Pendley

In November, comments closed on a proposal by the Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to redefine “waters of the United States,” as set forth in the Clean Water Act of 1977. While Sen. Edmund Muskie, Maine Democrat, author of the 1977 law, required 88 pages for his entire statute, this spring’s Federal Register notice ran 370 pages, not counting appendixes, one of which hit 300 pages alone. Little wonder the new “wetland” rules have generated controversy and a likely Supreme Court case.

Over the years, the EPA and the Corps of Engineers read “waters of the United States,” and hence their authority to regulate private property, both broadly and ambiguously. Unfortunately for landowners in their crosshairs, their interpretation is reminiscent of Justice Potter Stewart’s views regarding hard-core pornography, “I know it when I see it.” Worse yet, such a sighting is followed by a cease-and-desist order violation of which results in fines of tens of thousands of dollars a day, and double that if the violation is “willful.” Worst of all, landowners could not challenge those orders because they remained “unenforced” until violated.

For example, when the EPA declared arid lands owned by Dr. Larry Squires of Hobbs, New Mexico, “waters of the United States” because birds landed in ponds created by sporadic heavy rains, Dr. Squires challenged the order; but, his lawsuit was dismissed as untimely. A federal appeals court ruled his inability to question whether his lands were “wetlands” without paying hundreds of millions of dollars in fines or going to jail was not “constitutionally intolerable” given that it would “undermine the EPA’s regulatory authority.” Fortunately, in 2012, the Supreme Court unanimously ended this abuse in a lawsuit by the Pacific Legal Foundation.

Nonetheless, targeted landowners did reach the Supreme Court. In 1985, deciding at which point “water ends and land begins,” the Court upheld a definition that included wetlands that “actually abut on” traditional navigable waters. In 2001, the Court held that “non-navigable, isolated, intrastate waters,” even those used by migratory birds (remember Dr. Squires) were not within the Clean Water Act.

In 2006, ruling on whether the Clean Water Act included intrastate wetlands adjacent to non-navigable tributaries of navigable waters, the Supreme Court vacated the rules of the Army Corps of Engineers. On behalf of a four-member plurality, Justice Antonin Scalia required “continuous surface connection to bodies that are ‘waters of the United States’ in their own right,” but Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, while concurring in striking down the rules, demanded “a ‘significant nexus’ to waters that are or were navigable in fact or that could reasonably be so made.”

In 2007, the EPA and the Corps of Engineers responded to the court’s rulings and in late 2008, after the receipt of 66,000 comments, issued new guidance on identifying “waters of the United States.” Then, in 2011, the two agencies proposed guidance that expanded significantly the reach of the Clean Water Act, including over vernal pools, prairie potholes, natural ponds and playa lakes. In response to 230,000 comments, many of which demanded a formal rule-making, the agencies issued that proposal in April.

Living up to its reputation for creating, as liberal law professor Jonathan Turley put it, “a constitutional tipping point,” the Obama administration’s new rules constitute a historic land grab. Contrary to Justice Kennedy’s instruction, the rules: extend to all waters (not just wetlands) and all waters adjacent to non-navigable interstate waters; create a jurisdictional concept “similarly situated waters” by misquoting the justice; and ignore his demand that an agency “establish nexus on a case-by-case basis when it seeks to regulate wetlands based on adjacency to non-navigable tributaries.”

Worse yet, in violation of the Constitution’s commerce clause, they assert authority over waters that are neither instrumentalities nor channels of interstate commerce and that do not substantially affect interstate commerce.

Over its past six years, the Supreme Court has ruled unanimously against the Obama administration’s position on 20 occasions. These new wetland rules may make 21.

William Perry Pendley, a lawyer, is president of Mountain States Legal Foundation in Denver and author of “Sagebrush Rebel: Reagan’s Battle With Environmental Extremists and Why It Matters Today” (Regnery, 2013).

Washington Times

VIP lodge a favorite stop for high- and low-level officials

Obama administration officials from the lower rungs of government, not just A-list figures like Vice President Joe Biden, have often used a vacation lodge in Wyoming's Grand Teton National Park. Documents show that officials from the departments of the Interior and Justice, the National Park Service (NPS), the White House's Office of Management and Budget (OMB), and the Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) were scheduled to stay at the Brinkerhoff Lodge from 2011 into this year. Use of the remote historic two-story log cabin by government officials has attracted scrutiny from Capitol Hill as well as Interior's inspector general. Representatives of officials who stayed at the Brinkerhoff told Greenwire their time there was more for business than vacation. Who paid for their stay, however, varied among the officials -- NPS sometimes picked up the tab while others paid out of their own pockets. Some officials have seemingly used the lodge for personal time without being charged. That has led to several of them to pay back NPS months if not years after they first stayed at the Brinkerhoff. Time reported in October that bold-faced names in the administration had stayed at the lodge -- including Biden, former EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson and former Interior Secretary Ken Salazar -- which triggered the review into the use of the facility (Greenwire, Oct. 29). Not mentioned in the report were the lower-level officials who had used the Brinkerhoff too. Biden's office has said the vice president will reimburse the park service for staying at the Brinkerhoff with a dozen family members this past August with a $1,200 check, according to Time...more

And the IG's report is yet to come.  Read the article and you'll see how they use the lodge to influence politicians.

Senate Democrats grouse over passage of sage-grouse rider

Not all Westerners were relieved to see the sage-grouse rider make it into the final $1.1 trillion federal spending bill. Sen. Michael Bennet, Colorado Democrat, said Monday he was “disappointed” over the passage of the rider, which blocks the Fish and Wildlife Service from listing two types of sage grouse under the Endangered Species Act until September, saying the provision creates “uncertainty.” “We’re disappointed the bill included several policy riders on matters unrelated to appropriations, particularly those affecting the Greater and Gunnison sage-grouse,” said Mr. Bennet, who voted in favor of the spending bill, in a statement...more

Editorial - Feds ignore own law on property rights

Interior Secretary Sally Jewell should explain why the Office of Surface Mining is subverting the federal law that created it and trying to reinstate the pernicious broad form deed that Kentucky repealed in 1988.

OSM's betrayal of its statutory origins comes in a Pike County case in which a federal judge found that the federal Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act of 1977 requires the consent of all landowners before a coal company can begin mining.

Five descendants of coal miner M.L. Johnson challenged the state-issued mining permit after a subsidiary of Tampa-based TECO Energy began blasting and bulldozing their inheritance — 400 acres of hills and hollow on Bob's Branch near Virgie — without their consent.

The TECO subsidiary, Premier Elkhorn Coal Co., owns a quarter of the surface rights, which Kentucky says allows the mining to begin over the majority owners' objections.

OSM says its mission is to enforce the surface mining law. Yet, rather than uphold that law, OSM is deferring to the state of Kentucky's long-held practice of permitting mining with the consent of as little as 1 percent of the land's owners — even though the state's interpretation directly conflicts with the ruling U.S. District Judge Amul R. Thapar handed down in June.

Through a series of technicalities and procedural steps, OSM has moved the case to an administrative law judge in Salt Lake City. The governments and the coal company are seeking to dissolve an OSM order that has been blocking the mining, allowing the coal company to immediately resume stripping the Johnson family's land.

To get around Tharpur's clear meaning, OSM cites a provision in the 1977 surface mining law that referred to broad form deeds, which existed only in Kentucky and were ended in 1988 by a constitutional amendment.

The deeds separated the rights to the coal underground from the surface of the land and, according to court rulings of the time, made the coal owner's claim superior to the rights of the surface owners.

The deeds, many from the 19th century, were signed long before anyone conceived of the huge mining machines that have stripped Kentuckians of the farms and forests that supported generations of families.
The notorious legal documents were still in effect when Congress passed the surface mining act in 1977, and the provision of the law on which OSM is now hanging its hat was clearly intended to protect Kentucky's broad form deeds.

It's appalling that OSM would try to revive this obviously unjust abuse of property rights, but also consistent with OSM's historical subservience to the coal industry at the expense of coalfield residents.

Environmental groups recently expressed disappointment with the Obama administration's failure to rein in coal industry environmental abuses in Appalachia. Add to that Interior's apparent eagerness to join in trampling the property rights of the people who live and own land in Kentucky's mountains.

Lexington Herald-Leader

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Tribes file suit to stop Blythe solar energy project

The Colorado River Indian Tribes have filed suit against the U.S. Department of the Interior and the Bureau of Land Management in an effort to halt the development of a large-scale solar energy project near Blythe, Calif. In a complaint filed Dec. 4, in U.S. District Court, Central District of California, Eastern Division, the Tribes allege the BLM did not adequately consult with them over the cultural aspects of developing the land. They claim the development would cause irreparable harm to the culture of the Mohave people. CRIT further alleges that, in the approval process for the project, the BLM violated the Administrative Procedure Act, the National Historic Preservation Act, the National Environmental Policy Act and the Federal Land Policy and Management Act. Kara Briggs of Pyramid Communications, a public relations firm hired by CRIT, said they are seeking an injunction to stop construction on the project. The case number is 5:14-cv-02504. The project, which is being built by NextEra Energy Resources on 4,000 acres of land held by the BLM, is one of several solar energy projects in the Blythe area that are being proposed, are in the approval process, or have been approved by the BLM in a 147,000-acre “Solar Energy Zone.” The proposed facility would be located 20 miles west of Blythe, Calif. on Interstate 10. It would create 47 jobs and generate enough electricity for 88,000 homes. Construction is scheduled to begin in January 2015. CRIT claims this land is part of their ancestral homelands that cover the Mohave Desert...more

Judge's ruling favors Cowlitz tribe in casino case

A federal judge has sided with the Cowlitz Indian tribe in its long fight to establish a reservation and build a casino along Interstate 5 in southwest Washington. U.S. District Judge Barbara J. Rothstein in Washington, D.C., on Friday dismissed a lawsuit filed by plaintiffs who had challenged a federal government decision to put into trust for the tribe about 152 acres west of La Center in Clark County and to allow gambling on that land, the Columbian reported. The tribe of southwest Washington, which has about 3,500 members but no land of its own, plans to develop the property into tribal offices, housing, a tribal center as well as a massive casino-resort complex with a roughly 134,000-square-foot casino. The plaintiffs include the Confederated Tribes of the Grand Ronde Community of Oregon, which owns and operates a casino that would compete with any future casino built on the land...more

Ranch Radio Song Of The Day #1334

Buck Owens - Santa's Gonna Come In A Stagecoach is from his 1965 LP Christmas With Buck Owens & His Buckaroos