Megaloads hearing to enter third week

Folks continue to have plenty to say-

Here is the story on the coming third week of testimony, from the Spokesman-Review.

It seems to me that local folks willing to testify are mostly unhappy.  Here is a detailed story about past testimony in New West. New Idaho Megaloads Hearings Address More Than 200 Shipments. By Steve Bunk.

Despite efforts by the Idaho legislature to prevent people from suing over the plans of the lovable oil companies, two new lawsuits on the issue were recently filed.  One is by the National Wildlife Federation, the Montana Environmental Information Center, the Montana chapter of the Sierra Club, and the Missoula County Commission against the Montana State Department of Transportation. The other is by Idaho Rivers United. IRU is against the Forest Service. The Lochsa River and a corridor 1/4 mile on either side is part of the National Wild and Scenic Rivers System, and most of it is public national forest land. In fact the Lochsa was one of very first rivers protected, but the Forest Services is just standing by while the road right-of-way is being heavily chopped up for the wide and long loads.

Idaho bill to protect CAFOs from family farms, residents, local officials

Idaho bill would protect farms CAFOs from nuisance suits-

There hardly worse news for a small farm, village, residential, or wildlife area than a giant confined animal feeding operation is coming in. Can it be stopped? In almost every state, but Idaho especially, this happens again and again. Usually the CAFO, flush with money and support from its crony’s in the state legislature plows over local opposition, including local elected officials and everyone’s property rights
Occasionally local people win. That is too much for Idaho’s plutocracy. Now they have a “right to farm bill,” which is really just the opposite. Notice how the Idaho Statesman got the headline wrong in the article below? . . .  just as the CAFO’s supporters hoped it would. The AP writer told what is really going on, but the Statesman wrote the headline.

Idaho bill would protect farms from nuisance suits. By Mitchell Schmidt. Associated Press

Note that this bill is being pushed in other states too, indicating it is a multi-state campaign supported by some rich interest like maybe the Koch Brothers.

Update. Editorial of the Idaho State Journal. March 14, 2011

Proponents are wrapping their arguments for passage around Idaho’s rich agricultural history. “Agriculture is a shining star in Idaho,” attorney Dan Steenson told lawmakers during a recent committee hearing on Denney’s bill. “Expansion is necessary for businesses to grow.”
It’s nice to hear these mega-operations called businesses and not farms. They are in fact industrial in scope, although they enjoy the benefits of being agricultural in nature. And they come with a price to nature, neighbors and taxpayers. Read the rest . . . New CAFO bills carry a stench.

Swiss philanthropist buys $35M in Plum Creek Timber land in western Montana

This is not the first land protection buy-up in the Rockies by the Swiss billionaire-

This purchase seems to be a very good thing for conservation of the Montana landscape, but I’d bet this post will stir up a lot of debate about billionaires buying land (or maybe just about billionaires and why there are so many of them all of a sudden).

Swiss philanthropist buys $35M in Plum Creek Timber land in western Montana.  By Matthew Brown. Associated Press

Arizona Rethinking Open Range Laws

On the “open range” if you don’t want someone else’s cattle on your property, you have to fence them out!

Arizona is rethinking the fairness of this tradition.  So are people in other states.

Arizona Rethinking Open Range Laws. By Marc Lacey. New York Times.

If you hit a black cow in the middle of the night on a public highway, you are always to blame and will have to pay for the dead cow even as you pay for your spouse, friend or child’s funeral.

Final victory over Bush anti-public, anti-environment grazing regulations

It took a long time, but Western Watersheds and Advocates for the West seem to have a final victory

As a note, I am pleased to have been a plaintiff for the National Wildlife Federation in fighting this Bush era effort to exclude the public from having influence in grazing decisions, improperly grant property rights to livestock grazers, including water rights. Ralph Maughan
Below is the celebratory news release from WWP

Western Watersheds Project - Working to Protect and Restore Western Watersheds and Wildlife
Online Messenger #184

Western Watersheds Project Victorious in Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals & Wins Another Federal Court Settlement Against the Forest Service on 386 Allotments in Seven Western States.
~ Jon Marvel
Jon Marvel


Yesterday, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a Western Watersheds Project victory in Idaho District Court overturning the Bush Administration’s attempt to fundamentally change federal grazing regulations impacting hundreds of millions of acres of public lands in the West.  WWP was joined in this litigation by co-plaintiffs National Wildlife Federation, Idaho Wildlife Federation, Natural Resources Defense Council, Idaho Conservation League, and famed Idaho conservationist and WWP Board member Dr. Ralph Maughan of Pocatello.

The Bush Era Grazing Regulations would have :

  • Removed public involvement from grazing decisions affecting public lands and wildlife.
  • Granted ranchers private property-interest in public livestock grazing installations and developments including fences, water developments, and buildings on public lands.
  • Granted ranchers water-rights on public lands currently held in trust by the American public.

This significant victory at the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals is a welcome smack-down of Bush anti-environmentalism.  The win emboldens public participation and accountability, stymies the most recent livestock industry land and water grab, and maintains public ownership of the West’s vast water resources to benefit wildlife and future generations.

Thanks to our attorneys Laird Lucas of Advocates for the West, Joe Feller of Arizona State University Law School and Johanna Wald of the Natural Resources Defense Council for their excellent legal representation.

WWP would also like to acknowledge the decades-long legal work on the issue of public lands ranching by the late Tom Lustig of the National Wildlife Federation.  Before his untimely death in May 2008 Tom provided invaluable legal counsel on this critical litigation.

tom lustig
Tom Lustig

Read the Decisionpdf

Western Western Watersheds Project Secures a Federal District Court Ordered Settlement with the Forest Service Halting the Agency’s End-Run Around the National Environmental Policy Act in Authorizing Livestock Grazing on 386 Grazing Allotments Across the West.

WWP was joined in this litigation by Natural Resources Defense Council, Center for Biological Diversity, California Trout, Environmental Protection Information Center, Klamath Siskiyou Wildlands Center, Los Padres Forest Watch, Sierra Forest Legacy, Sequoia Forestkeeper, Grand Canyon Trust, Utah Environmental Congress, Red Rock Forests, and Oregon Natural Desert Association.

This significant victory affects livestock grazing administration on National Forests in Utah, Wyoming, Idaho, Washington, Oregon, New Mexico and California and will ensure compliance with the nation’s most important environmental statute, NEPA.

Read the Court Orderpdf

Thanks to Laurie Rule of Advocates for the West’s Boise office for her stellar legal representation in this case.

Jon Marvel
Executive Director

Banner: Sawtooth National Forest, central Idaho © Lynne Stone

Clean Water

Public Land Ranchers’ latest attempt to steal water from the public was averted © Christopher McBride

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Ralph Maughan's Wildlife News

Utah anglers may have to buy access to streams

Utah’s new anti-access law effect’s on fishing could be overcome by access purchase-

We discussed this earlier in brief as part of the comments on the Salt Lake City, Chevron oil pipe spill into Red Butte Creek and the Jordan River.

Utah anglers may have to buy access to streams. By Brandon Loomis. The Salt Lake Tribune

Yellowstone bison drive planned through this week

To hell with private property rights, to hell with wildlife, we must protect cattle that aren’t even here.

Hazing bison inside Yellowstone National Park © Ken Cole

Hazing bison inside Yellowstone National Park on Madison River ©Ken Cole

The ridiculous annual event of hazing bison during their calving season is underway even though this year the bison are likely to come back out of the Park because the green-up of grass hasn’t started there due to late season snowstorms.

Each year the residents of the West Yellowstone area have to endure this fiasco on behalf of a few ranchers who whine and cry that their cattle might get brucellosis from bison when they don’t even bring them to the area a until after the buffalo have all calved. This year, due to the late green-up, it will likely be even later.

On numerous occasions I have witnessed Montana’s helicopters chasing buffalo deep into the Park even beyond the border of Wyoming in front of bewildered tourists. Last year, while hazing herds of newborn calves and their mothers off of private property where there never will be cattle again, Buffalo Field Campaign filmed a calf that had broken its leg in the malay of the hazing operation. These kinds of incidents are a common occurrence and there is no justification for it.

Read the rest of this entry »

Open range laws unfair to rural residents, AZ lawmaker says

Open range laws said to put interests of ranchers above the property rights and safety of other rural residents-

Open range laws were made for another era. Increasingly people are seeing these laws as another giveaway of their safety and rights to that small group who want to carelessly run cattle over public and private property.

System unfair to rural residents, lawmaker says. State politics: Open range law discussed. Sierra Vista Herald.

Mining mogul buys Montana ranch famed for conservation

Sun Ranch bought by Richard C. Adkerson, CEO of Freeport-McMoRan Copper & Gold-

Mining exec buys Sun Ranch. By Daniel Person. Bozeman Daily Chronicle.

Landowner group tries to block wind development in Northern Laramie Range

Conflicting landowner positions on wind development is scrambling Wyoming politics

If you look at a wind map of the U.S., the Laramie Mountains are perhaps the best wind area in the United States. That doesn’t mean wind gets to override property rights, however.

Landowner group tries to block wind development in Northern Laramie Range. By Dustin Bleizeffer. Casper Star-Tribune energy reporter.
Tilting at Windmills: The Strange Politics of Wyoming Wind Power. WyoFile. By Jonathan Thompson

Idaho to pay to settle lawsuit on who can bid for grazing leases

Lawsuit’s aftermath forces Idaho’s Land Board set rules allowing conservationists to lease state grazing lands-

The Western Watersheds Project was born when Jon Marvel outbid a rancher at a state grazing lease auction, and the Land Board gave the lease to the rancher anyway*. Finally, Idaho’s Land Board is apparently going to let other interests compete for grazing leases on the state’s school endowment lands. This is a victory for Idaho’s school children, wildlife. It is also a victory for the Idaho and U. S Constitution, that we are equal under the law . . .  a well deserved slap at Idaho’s livestock nobility.

Idaho to pay $50K to settle grazing lease lawsuit. By John Miller. Associated Press Writer.

I met the winner of lawsuit, Gordon Younger, one time. He is a self-made millionaire, orginally from Washington State. He speaks very directly and is not impressed by Idaho’s livestock nobility. Younger’s attorney was Laird Lucas, executive director of Advocates for the West.

This is great! 🙂

Update. Here are the opinions. The first was March 2007.It was a decision by US Magistrate Judge Mikal Williams, which upheld the validity of the equal protection claims under federal civil rights law.
The second is by US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, which affirmed Judge Williams and held further that the individual state officials could be personally liable because their discrimination against conservationists violated clearly established law. The Ninth Circuit decision is reported as Lazy Y Ranch v. Behrens, 546 F.3d 580 (9th Cir. 2008). I couldn’t get an electronic copy of the published version, but have the slip opinion.

Lazy Y March 07 dismiss order
Lazy Y Ninth Circuit opinion

– – – –

*Actually Marvel didn’t strictly outbid the rancher. The rancher refused to bid at all. Nevertheless, he was given the grazing lease. Reading about this blatant unfairness, my spouse and I immediately joined Marvel’s  nascent Idaho Watersheds Project.

Montana: Landowners increasingly shut access to popular spots

I see it as a way for our western “royalty” to try to coerce Montana FWP into supporting wildife and fish-harmful plans-

The land barons are trying to use hunters to pressure FWP into policies that are harmful to wildlife, but friendly to their private interests. The article says that for access, lots of these pint-sized earls and duke are trying to get sportsmen to sign petitions, etc. to support policies unrelated to access to their land.

Don’t fall for it. Fight back and join organizations that want to reign in their arrogant abuse of power. Landowners increasingly shut down popular spots. By Nick Gevock. Montana Standard.

Here is a link to the Montana Wildlife Federation. For a real kick in their pants join the Western Watersheds Project.

Pocatello. Don’t let the Army Corps ruin the Portneuf River again!

On Aug. 31, it’s time to defend our river, our recreation, our wildlife, and our property-

Don’t forget the public meeting the City is holding tonight, August 31 at 5:30 PM to 7:30 PM in the City Council Chambers.

Here is a letter from Dr. Chuck Trost. If you are interested in birds and live in Pocatello, you know who he is.

Many people are disturbed about the proposed removal of the trees along the Greenway at North City Park.  This beautiful and shaded walkway will look like a hot war zone without the trees.  I would like to know whether the city plans to remove all the trees on both sides of the river, as well as both sides of the levee?  These trees also keep the Portneuf River cool, which should be one of the goals of the city.

Fire Mitigation Work In Western US Misplaced, Says New Study

Only 11 per cent of federal efforts have been near homes or offices-

This won’t come as any surprise to those of us who have watched the BLM and Forest Service conduct preemptive (“prescriptive”) burns and vegetation thinnings. Most of the fire reduction work I see is deep in the forest land, although often fairly near some kind of road.

Those monies spent might have some benefit for wildlife habitat or livestock, but not where people live. When asked, the Forest Service may point to a single home or two, or second home, deep in the woodland or steppe, but it isn’t the city or town.

One of the major reasons, however, is that 70 per cent of fire prone lands with homes are not within a mile-and-a-half of federal land. This puts a physical legal limit on the federal government’s ability to affect the high-risk zone. The study points to a need to be able to “treat” next to or near the homes to have an effect.

This raises a question if it shouldn’t be a private person, or a local government’s responsibility to thin the land next to the homes they choose to build in the fire zone, and which the city or county allowed to be developed for residential purposes there. RM

Fire Mitigation Work In Western US Misplaced, Says New Study. Science Daily

Buffalo hazing frustrates the owner of Horse Butte

Galanis’s brought the Butte to help wildlife, especially bison, but Montana DOL hazes the bison away to protect the non-existent local cattle-

Buffalo hazing frustrates property owner. Conservation easement not getting intended use. By Brett French. Billings Gazette Staff.

Bison on Horse Butte Mercilessly Hazed out of Montana


Buffalo Field Campaign
Yellowstone Bison
Update from the Field
May 14, 2009

In this issue:
* Update from the Field
* The Wild in Us
* Join the Front Lines
* BFC Media Crew Needs a Laptop
* Last Words
* Kill Tally


Montana Department of Livestock Helicopter violating private property rights.  Photo by Lance Koudele

Montana Department of Livestock Helicopter violating private property rights. Photo by Lance Koudele

* Update from the Field

Though a day early, the dreaded time has come: All the buffalo have been cruelly forced off of Horse Butte.

All week patrols have been documenting the Montana Department of Livestock, Yellowstone National Park, Gallatin National Forest and Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks agents carry out massive and relentless hazing operations, harassing and harming America’s last wild bison population.

Helicopter Hazing on Horse Butte.  Photo by Lance Koudele

Helicopter Hazing on Horse Butte. Photo by Lance Koudele

On Tuesday, agents were set to haze bison within Yellowstone National Park to “make room” for the bison that would be hazed off of Horse Butte. But Mother Nature had different plans: one group of bison the agents planned to target consisted of forty bulls who would follow none of the agents’ orders. An incredible hail storm assisted and the haze was called off for the day. But such luck was momentary.

Every day this week agents chased bison family groups, including newborn calves and pregnant mothers, off of the south side of the Madison River, and today they set their sights on cattle-free Horse Butte. In fact, all of the Gallatin National Forest lands where the buffalo roam are cattle free, yet livestock interests insist on assaulting them with mounted cowboys*, ATVs, local and federal law enforcement and the DOL’s helicopter.*

Read the rest of this entry »

Wyoming Landowners: Slow down wind energy

These landowners realized that proposed wind energy is a lot more than a few scenic wind turbines tucked nicely away in an unimportant gully or flat-

Laramine Range Landowners: Slow down wind energy. By Dustin Bleizeffer. Casper Star-Tribune energy reporter

Unlike most of Idaho and Utah, they do live in a truly high quality wind energy zone.

Plans are for

1.1,150-mile-transmission line with a 350-foot-wide corridor from Glenrock to Medicine Bow, WY and then all the way to Boise, Idaho.

2. Thousands of giant wind turbines served by hundreds, maybe thousands, of miles of new roads, many in steep terrain.

Here is a link to a map showing the wind resources of the United States. Blue is the highest quality, and you can see the Laramie Range has a lot of blue and the next highest, red.

Lawmakers shoot down new bison plan

Opposition to bill brings out the real issue — cattle industry’s control over the rest of us-

The cattle industry won’t even support property rights (except their own), much less wildlife. As this country runs into hard times how much abuse on the part of a small segment of population will the average Montanan put up with?

Lawmakers shoot down new bison plan. By Daniel Person. Bozeman Chronicle Staff Writer

Vet urges ranchers to adopt brucellosis plan

Online Poll in the Bozeman Chronicle

This is a non-scientific Poll concerning the management of wild bison in Montana…

To vote in this online poll in the Bozeman Chronicle:

Scroll to the bottom of this link to find the question:

Do you think the Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks should take over sole responsibility for managing wild bison in Montana?
Then vote.

Update: Poll results.

River access bill gets overwhelming support in Montana’s House

Looks like the Stockgrowers opposition was far from fatal-

The bill passed 95-5. It must also go to the Montana Senate.

River access bill gets overwhelming support in House. Proposal could be on its way to the Senate as early as today. By JENNIFER McKEE. Billings Gazette State Bureau

Montana Stockgrowers screws up stream access bill at the last minute

Stream access bill snags on specifics. By Jennifer McKee. Helena Independent State Bureau.

The proposed Stockgrower’s Association amendment would make the stream access bill largely meaningless.

More last minute Administration swipe at the economy and the environment

Mark Rey set to hamstring Western national forests and counties allowing developers to pave Forest Service logging roads for remote subdivisions-

The “Darth Vader” of the national forests is poised to strike again during the Administration’s deaththrows. Former timber lobbyist Rey, who bosses the Forest Service, will try to set in stone the plan to make it easier to turn the remote backcountry to ugly, tax-draining subdivisions.

This is on behalf of Plum Creek Timber who would rather sale for subdivisions their timberlands interspersed with national forest land rather than grow trees. Plum Creek has about 8 million areas, mostly as the result of the 1864 Northern Pacific Land Grant.

This continues the host of housing policies of the Bush Administration which have caused a collapse of the economy of the United States and plunged the entire world into a recession. Fortunately, Obama can reverse this. In fact, he specifically referred to this during has campaigning in Montana.

U.S. Forest Policy Is Set to Change, Aiding Developer. Shift Would Let Firm Pave Logging Roads. By Karl Vick. Washington Post.

Mark Rey

Mark Rey

Update. Plum Creek Backs Off Road Easements in Montana. Timber company tells Missoula County the easement amendments are off the table, just as Mark Rey was ready to go to bat for it. By Matthew Frank, 1-05-09. New West.

2nd update. Forest Service too backs off road easements. By Courtney Lowery. New West.

Compensation for Montana game farms denied

Montana voters will not have to pay for their wise defense of the public interest-

Compensation for game farms denied. Associated Press. Great Falls Tribune Staff.

I wish someone organize Idaho voters to tackle elk farm issue. Some fat ass comes in and plugs an elk up against a fence goes home with his tales of the Idaho wild country.

Feds might start billing [Custer] county for wildfire structure protection

One way to get zoning, proactive property protection or something equivalent-

Custer County, Idaho and other rural counties are not of a mind to regulate housing development. It is a matter of philosophy or ideology.

This philosophy is not without public costs, however; and this might send them a message about letting people or developers build in the fire zone to do just what they want and then expect the U. S. government to protect them for free.

Story in the Challis Messinger. Feds might start billing county for wildfire structure protection. By Todd Adams.

Posted in politics, property rights, public lands, wildfire. Tags: , . Comments Off on Feds might start billing [Custer] county for wildfire structure protection

Trust for Public Land helps the Forest Service buy up old mining claims

Restoring old mining claims to the public-

Old mining claims have a nasty tendency to become remote, jarring, difficult-to-service trophy homes.

For years the Trust for Public Lands has helped move old mining claims (federal lands that were privatized and perhaps mined at one time) back into the public estate.

John Miller of the Associated Press  has written a story about them.  Conservationists, Forest Service buy up mines. AP.

Bison Brawl. Horse Butte residents seeks to shield animals from over-reaching lawsuit

Bison Brawl. Horse Butte residents seeks to shield animals from over-reaching lawsuit. By Matthew Brown.

Brown writes that the plaintiffs in this lawsuit, the Montana Stockgrowers Association who filed the suit on behalf of rancher Bob Myers and the Sitz Angus Ranch, run cattle near Horse Butte.

I did a Google search. The Sitz Angus Ranch has two locations, one near Harrison and the other near Dillon, Montana.

By what amazing stretch of imagination are Dillon or Harrison, Montana “near Horse Butte?”

No the people who live near Horse Butte are the people near Horse Butte where there are no cattle, or do cattle growers now get to rearrange geography as yet another of their privileges as well as impinge on the property rights of others?

Ranching & Forestry industries send 60-day Notice of Intent to Sue Interior to prevent Polar Bear listing

The Pacific Legal Foundation (PLF) sent a 60-day Notice of Intent to sue the Department of Interior over its decision to list Polar Bears under the Endangered Species Act.  From PLF’s News Release:

The PLF letter is filed on behalf of ranching and forestry interests that, along with employers nationwide and the economy in general, would be harmed by heavy-handed regulations that could proceed from the listing of the polar bear.

Hunting Season is Open on Polar Bears’ ESA ListingMother Jones

Posted in Climate change, endangered species act, Grazing and livestock, Logging, property rights. Tags: . Comments Off on Ranching & Forestry industries send 60-day Notice of Intent to Sue Interior to prevent Polar Bear listing

Dead Nevada rancher wins property rights award

After a long battle the late Wayne Hage has won in the U.S. Court of Claims. Judge Loren A. Smith awarded $4.2 million to Hage’s estate. The defendant was the U.S. Forest Service.

Rancher Hage was a “sagebrush rebel” with a ranch in a remote Nevada Valley. He eventually married Helen Chenoweth, a controversial far right-wing Idaho congresswoman. Chenoweth-Hage was killed in an auto accident not long after Hage died.

The case was a high priority for right wing property rights advocates. I haven’t heard much of an analysis from conservationists as to what the decision really means. I do think it makes it more necessary, and could add momentum, to the proposal to have a voluntary paid retirement of the grazing leases on U.S. public lands — the national grazing buyout.

Hage had a grazing lease to 700,000 acres of your public land on the basis of his 7000 acres of private property. The Forest Service confiscated his cattle after repeated tresspass and bad management. The judge did not rule in Hage’s favor by saying that a grazing lease is a property right. The case revolved the meaning of the 1866 Ditch Act and property rights in water.

Nevada rancher wins property rights award. Forest Service took his water rights, judge says. LA Times from Associated Press.

Former Larry Craig aide and timber lobbyist, uses federal position to help access to trophy home sites deep in the forest

We’ve talked about Mary Rey before. He is under secretary for natural resources and environment in USDA, and thus oversees the U.S. Forest Service. Before that he learned the ropes from none other than Larry Craig and became a lobbyist for the timber industry.

In the past, he has barely escaped jail for defying court orders, and most recently is busy trampling on states rights to open national forest logging roads as acess to proposed and under constrution trophy homes deep the the forests.

These energy sucking, hard-to-service palaces are being built over the objections of states and counties that will have to pay the bills.

Rocky Barker discusses Rey today. D.C. political appointee flouts states rights and local control. Letters from the West. Idaho Statesman

– – – –
Earlier. Rey to explain Plum Creek deal. By Michael Jamison. Missoulian.

Many Montana landowners trying to lock out public hunting, while private hunting continues.

I like this editorial in the Great Falls Tribune, namely that if you post your land “no hunting,” that should mean no hunting, period. It should not mean “no hunting for the general public, but hunting for those who pay the landowner.

Landowners absolutely do not own the wildlife that live on or cross their land.

“No hunting” should mean no hunting. Editorial. Great Falls Tribune.

Idaho State Legislature Passes Bill To Kill Wildlife/Wolves “Molesting” Domestic Animals

Some people tend to forget that state management of wolves isn’t a responsibility exclusively reserved to the Idaho Department of Fish & Game, a department that’s allegedly insulated from politicization. I slip “allegedly” in there because anyone who’s been paying attention to wildlife issues in the state has a good idea that the Livestock lobby pretty much holds its will over the head of even our good ol’ boy governor “Butch” Otter, let alone the IDF&G (See: Idaho Interim Bighorn Management Plan). The lobby exercises its authority most prominently in the legislature, where last week House lawmakers passed SENATE BILL NO. 1374. The bill sets the bar for “disposal” of wolves, which we’ll see below the fold, but for this space we’ll set the mood with with a characteristic sampling of the mentality behind the governing body that will hold authority over “managing” wolves in the state of Idaho come Friday.

The bill starts :

10 […]any person may control, trap, and/or remove any
11 wild animals or birds or may destroy the houses, dams, or other structures of
12 furbearing animals for the purpose of protecting property from the
13 depredations thereof as hereinafter provided.

Read the rest of this entry »

Senate Energy Committee holds hearings on changes in the 1872 Mining Law

As the price of gold and other “hard rock” minerals rises, the need to change the 135-year old law that established the claim and patent system on public lands grows.

Key U.S. Senate Committee hears about the need for mining reforms.  By Staci Matlock. The New Mexican.

Mining claims rise near Western cities. By Judy Pasternak, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer

The New West: Mine Claims Crowd Booming Cities.  Mining Industry, Still Regulated by 1872 Law, Is Nation’s Top Polluter. Environmental Working Group.

Here is a map of the thousands of mining claims. Environmental Working Group.

Posted in property rights, public lands. Tags: . Comments Off on Senate Energy Committee holds hearings on changes in the 1872 Mining Law

Bison Advocates and Horse Butte Landowners Call For Changed Management

The news release below was posted March 4. This morning, this article appeared in the Billings Gazette. Activists try to stop bison hazing. By Mike Stark. Billings Gazette. The headline is poorly descriptive.
– – – – – – – –

For release. March 4, 2008

Timothy Preso, Earthjustice, (406) 586-9699
Michael Mease, Buffalo Field Campaign, (406) 646-0070

Bison Advocates And Landowners Call For Changed Management

Buffalo Field Campaign and Horse Butte landowners seek increased tolerance for bison in cattle-free zone outside western boundary of Yellowstone National Park

West Yellowstone, Montana – A coalition of bison advocates and local landowners today called on federal and state officials to stop capturing and slaughtering Yellowstone bison in a cattle-free zone outside the western park boundary pending a review of options to give bison more room to roam in the Horse Butte area.

“The government has been killing our nation’s last remaining wild bison, claiming it is necessary to prevent the spread of brucellosis to cattle on the Horse Butte Peninsula,” said Michael Mease, campaign coordinator for the Buffalo Field Campaign. “There are no more cattle on Horse Butte, so that excuse rings hollow. It’s about time the people in charge get behind the locals who support wild bison being on Horse Butte without harassment by the government.”

Read the rest of this entry »

Gas wells to be drilled upset local residents of Hoback area

These natural gas wells are a movement into a new area; one that is scenic, wildlife rich and where people live. As such it is causing a lot of controversy in the area south of Jackson Hole.

Part of it is in a national forest roadless area too (Grayback IRA).

Hoback wells process frustrates opponents. Rancher: ‘Are we just spitting in the wind?’ By Corey Hatch. Jackson Hole News and Guide.

Livestock industry has no use for wildlife, period

Earlier, I posted this as a comment, but I think the issue is important enough this it be a post.

– – – – –

I don’t think people realize that the western livestock industry and many outfitters have a mindset that does not value wildlife at all. All animals, including wildlife, are valued only as a commodity. And one of the best ways to maximize the private profitability of these animals is to own them and feed them.

From this viewpoint, wildlife is just plain inefficient. Put them in an enclosure and maximize their size. End of discussion.

Have people noticed that many former woolgrowers are getting into the elk farming/elk shooting business because it is more profitable than raising sheep?

Stan Boyd, who seems to have tremendous influence over the governor of Idaho and the state legislature works for both the Idaho Elk Breeders Association and the Idaho Woolgrowers.

Many outfitters are also ranchers, and so their view of wildlife is the view of the livestock they raise. Elk are just livestock they don’t have complete control over.

Now that they seem to have won on the wolf issue (wolves having no value as livestock), they are ready to start removing bighorn sheep from the public lands because their grip on bighorn is slipping.

As Robert Hoskins has repeatedly written, the Wyoming legislature is moving more and more to restrict Wyoming Game and Fish Department, prevent them from even holding public land grazing permits (where elk could graze in the winter), and to further promote the feedlot practice of elk management.

For those who didn’t follow these issues before the wolves were reintroduced, the Western Livestock Industry had no use for any carnivore, or any animal that is inherently non-game (like bluebirds, or desert tortoise).

They tolerate elk, deer, moose, pronghorn as long as these animals don’t interfere with their livestock operations and they receive “depredation” payments from the Department of Fish and Game, Wildlife (or whatever the state calls it), if these generally useless animals get into their haystacks or fields.

2600 acres of Wisdom River Ranch has conservation easement donated and purchased

SW Montana cattle ranch protected from subdivision. By Nick Gevock. Montana Standard

Plum Creek subdivisions could strain fire budget in NW Montana

Plum Creek timber is the largest private landholder in Montana, and now since timbering no longer pays as much as remote subdivisions do, they are planning, asking and building a lot of them. Many are located in expensive-to-service, forest fire prone country. Most county commissions seem to think that they have to let developers do as they please with their land, but who pays for all this?

As long as the US Forest Service keeps fighting fires with the primary goal of saving homes, even the most remote, never-should-have-been built homes, the sprawl will never end (except perhaps now by financial collapse of the mortgage market).

This article explores the problem and suggests the reorientation of thinking of county commissioners will be when they have to assess their constituents the true cost of fire fighting.

Plum Creek subdivisions could strain fire budget. By Michael Jamison, Missoulian.

Yellowstone Bison: Madison Valley Landowners Get Tough with Montana DOL

A couple just bought much of the top of Horse Butte, a place bison love to come when they leave Yellowstone Park searching for grass, and where Montana DOL loves to capture them for slaughter and haze them back in the Park to “protect” the non-existent cattle from getting brucellosis from the bison.

The new landowners will not tolerate the DOL trespassing on their property (we will see if DOL cares about private private rights. I’ve said they don’t. Hope to be proven wrong). There will be a confrontation this winter because a lot of bison are going the leave the Park because this summer’s drought has left the range in bad condition according to biologists I have talked with.

It will be winter of starvation for elk and bison . . . worse if the bison are confined to the Park.

Here is the story in New West.  Yellowstone Bison: Madison Valley Landowners Get Tough with Montana DOL. By David Nolt.

Cows or Condos? Neither!

Cows or Condos? Neither! By George Wuerthner. New West.

It must have been 15 years ago when I was visiting Wuerthner at his place in Livingston that he outlined to me the argument he makes in the New West guest opinion above.

I’ve been thinking about it ever since, especially when I am out on the edge of the rural sprawl or in an especially nasty cow burnt, hell place, which may certainly be in the wide open spaces!

I think George is right on all counts. It is a false choice, especially if you are interested the conservation of wildlife. If you have to make the choice, it should usually be accept the development.

As Logging Fades, Rich Carve Up Open Land in West

As Logging Fades, Rich Carve Up Open Land in West. New York Times. By Kirk Johnson.

This is something that needs to be slowed or stopped if possible.

Hardly any existing residents seem to like this trend, but hardly anyone suggests anything effective in stopping it.

Repealing regulations protecting the environment from logging and grazing won’t stop it because it clearly hasn’t stopped where it has been tried. You just get rural sprawl mixed with livestock and logging abuse.

Today, the land is worth more as a residence than for grazing or timbering when the county provides services.

So, the key to minimizing this is to zone the county and not provide services to properties not zoned for residential occupation.

1. This does not violate the owner’s property rights because a private property owner has no right to reach into your wallet and extract tax-supported service unless the county permits it. Your money is private property too.

2. Some rural counties are so foolish they that give agricultural exemptions if the owner of a rural palace lets them run a few cattle or sheep on their 50 or so acres . . . talk about redistribution of wealth from the average person to the better off! Clearly people need to think about who they election to county commission.

3. The fire fighting agencies need to draw the line on protecting these places from wildfire. Now before Bob Caesar or someone so situated who has had a rural residence for many years writes about it being unfair, we need to obviously grandfather places like his. This is a policy for future construction, not for past.

4. Private insurance needs to segregate these residences and make them pay full cost rather than once again spreading the cost to people who have built where so many tax dollars need not be consumed. In order words, no private wealth redistribution to these places either.

5. Private communities should be discouraged by local ordinance as a violation of the US and various state constitutions. Traditional access where it is not harmful to the environment needs to be enforced by the county (not abandoned). I am not thinking, however, that ATV trails going straight up the mountain or through a marsh should be kept open. Here private closure can actually be of great benefit.

6. I believe in private property rights. If the person still wants to build on his or her remote property after it is clear no services will be provided from the local, state, or federal government taxes, then that’s their right. Everyone with property has property rights, but money is just as much private property as land.

7. Finally, because many of the rich newcomers are conservation-minded, It might be possible to enlist them to stopping more of what they did. Some people will say it’s not fair to lock the door behind you. I say it is fair because it is strongly in the interest of the public and the conservation of land and water, it is more than fair.

Critics hate Idaho hunting ranch’s guts

In an exclusive story today, the Idaho Falls Post Register (subscription only) revealed that one of those controversial elk shooting farms in Eastern Idaho (this time one really close to Yellowstone) was dumping the remains over the fence and attracting a large number of grizzly bears, one of which may have recently mauled a real hunter. It is the Velvet Elk Ranch.

Island Park (in Idaho adjacent to Yellowstone) has always been marginal grizzly country except for a few good pockets of habitat. This year, however, and last too, there have been grizzlies all over the place there. Recently a sow and two cubs that had no fear of humans were removed.

B.E. and I have posted stories reminding local folks and/or complaining how they don’t put away the bird feeders, leave out the trash, etc. However, this game farm, adjacent to Henry’s Lake Flat, might be the real culprit. Idaho Fish and Game said there might be 7 grizzlies were in the nearby area. There are many summer homes and much recreation, especially fishing, nearby.

Actually, I head a rumor about this place about a 1 1/2 years ago. I reported it to a low level Fish and Game person because I thought the guts would attract wolves who would then be condemned for hanging around.  I heard nothing more.

Here is a short version of the story from AP.

Craig, “ecoterrorists”, hidden riders, and industrial legacy

There is no doubt, the hoopla surrounding ID Senator Larry Craig is a well deserved condemnation of hypocrisy that’s been years in the coming and nobody is celebrating his descent more than progressives throughout the Northwest. Now, he has resigned effective September 30.

But the shamefull manner in which a powerful Republican Senator squandered his standing is thankfully failing to completely overshadow just what it is many in Idaho and throughout the West are celebrating:

In the meantime, his actions in backrooms of the nation’s capital deserve attention. Call it a Craig’s List of how to block good deeds, or at least see that they don’t go unpunished.

Read the rest of this entry »

New Wyoming Senator may favor buyout of gas leases in the Wyoming Range

As folks may recall, Wyoming’s US Senator Craig Thomas died recently. Thomas was moving to protect the Wyoming Range mountains from oil and gas leasing and development.

His replacement is appointed Republican John Barrasso. Barrasso responds in the article below, saying that he too wants to protect the area, but worries about the oil companies property rights (which would have to be purchased by the US government).

I have a number of comments.

First, an oil or gas lease is a property right. If you don’t want to have to buy them out, don’t issue them! A year ago there were no oil or gas leases in public land in the area of the Wyoming Range. The Forest Service and the BLM did not have to issue these permits. These federal agencies created these property rights of their own free will (of maybe that Dick Cheney).

Second, the local residents have property rights too, and they precede the newly created property rights of the oil companies. The residents’ property is likely to be harmed, maybe severely by gas drilling and production. These property rights should be protected just as much and more than those of the oil companies.

Third, the Forest Service and BLM should not create any new property rights for oil companies (leases) in the Wyoming Range or elsewhere, where there is such widespread opposition and/or sensitive scenery and wildlife habitat.

I hope Senator Barrasso believes that the property rights of his constituents are just as important as those of the oil companies.

Senator for energy use buyout. Barrasso keeps Thomas’ legacy in mind but wants to make his own decisions on issues. By Noah Brenner. Jackson Hole News and Guide.

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Posted in mountain ranges, oil and gas, property rights, public lands management. Comments Off on New Wyoming Senator may favor buyout of gas leases in the Wyoming Range

Colorado’s Rep. Udall to sponsor amendment to kill abusive use of RS 2477 law.

RS 2477 is remnant of the mining law of 1866, which was repealed in 1976 when the Federal Land Policy and Management Act was passed. The intent of rs2477 was to grant access to miners on the public domain way back when, and its purpose had long expired.

Nevertheless, some crafty lawyers with help from the first Bush Administration seized on it as a method for claiming that any old track or even sled trail on public lands was in fact “a highway,” and could be turned into an ATV runway or even a paved highway by a county contrary on any other law. Some even want to use it to attack private property rights to assert RS 2477 claims exist on private property where a way has been abandoned.

Some rural counties and lawless off-road groups have used it as a cudgel to attack proposed wilderness areas, national monuments and even national parks. The second Bush administration has been only too happy to accommodate them.

Now Rep. Mark Udall, D-Colorado is sponsoring a measure to the Dept. of Interior’s appropriations that would forbid the BLM from spending money to validate rs2477 claims by counties or states. Putting it in the budget largely protects it from filibuster, thus only a majority of the Senate needs to approve it rather than the 60 votes needed to kill the filibuster.

Here is the story in the Denver Post. Udall wants BLM not to surrender roads to locals. By Thomas Burr (originally from the Salt Lake Tribune). I should note that RS 2477 abuses have been most common in Utah.

23 years after historic water pact, Idaho Power Co. sues state

Idaho irrigators, boaters, fishers, commerical trout farmers, conservationists, anyone with a water right on the Snake River, and electrical power users have come to view the Swan Falls agreement of 1985 as a turning point in Idaho politics and water law. Now Idaho Power is going to court to claim that the pact didn’t leave enough water to satisfy all the uses (in their case hydropower). Idaho Power is correct. The 1985 agreement was overly optimistic (especially in view of the drying climate).

This is a huge political/economic/conservation development.

Story in the Idaho Statesman. Be sure to read the sidebar “Analysis” by Rocky Barker.

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Governor Schweitzer says public stream access needed to keep Montana’s economy humming

In the last several years Montana’s economy has turned really turned around after years of stagnation and growing inequality. During that time too more and more landowners have tried to block off the public from their streams.

Now Gov. Brian Schweitzer has come out strongly in favor of a proposed law that would require landowners who attach fences to county bridges to provide some form of access to the streams they cross, such as a gate, and stated that public access is essential to a strong economy. He is talking about “public property rights,” a word western Republicans are not fond of, and had fallen into disuse in the years of Republican control in Montana.

Governor says strong economy, public access linked. By Walt Williams. Bozeman Chronicle Staff Writer

More . . . Update from the Denver Post. Unhappy to be stuck with you. Wealthy landowners want to bar fishing on Montana stream. By Charlie Meyers. Denver Post Outdoors Editor.

The stream access controversy has had a big internal impact on Trout Unlimited.

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Idaho Elk farm regulation bill held up while elk farmers decide how much they want to regulate themselves

The great effort to clean up or abolish the Idaho elk farms have come down to a dispute between the elk farmers who want a little regulation and those who want none.

Story: Seeking compromise, House Speaker holds up elk bill: Game breeders disagree among themselves on how stringent proposed regulations should be. Idaho Statesman. By Alicia P.Q. Wittmeyer. The Associated Press

Posted in Elk, privatization, property rights. Comments Off on Idaho Elk farm regulation bill held up while elk farmers decide how much they want to regulate themselves

Hunters, elk ranchers take stands on bills in the Idaho Legislature

 There is finally some action in the state legislature on the many bills introduced to regulate/self-regulate/or crack down on the domestic elk industry in Idaho.

Hunters, elk ranchers take stands on bills. Senate committee hears testimony on measures that would restrict elk-ranching industry. By Roger Phillips. Idaho Statesman

Montana legislature to debate bills on game “damage” to private land

Bills raise debate on game damage to private land. Hearings scheduled next week in Helena. By Brett French. Billings Gazette Outdoor Writer.

Here is another example of why wolves are constantly used to divert sportsmen — so they don’t pay attention to things like this. The situation is kind of hard to explain if the wolves have killed most of the wildlife, but then they haven’t.

Here is a related story from USA Today. More towns putting deer in the cross hairs. Drivers are involved in about 1 million accidents a year involving deer.
By Charisse Jones, USA TODAY

Gov. Schweitzer Hears From Montanans Opposed To Bison Policies

Gov. Schweitzer Hears From Montanans Opposed To Bison Policies. Residents, Hunters, and Bison Advocates Communicate Distaste with Current Bison Management.

Here is the latest news from the Buffalo Field Campaign.

HELENA, MONTANA. Montana residents from Yellowstone’s gateway communities in Gardiner and West Yellowstone, along with hunters and members of Buffalo Field Campaign, will meet with Governor Brian Schweitzer at 2:30 this afternoon to discuss their objections to Montana’s bison hunt and the current management of Yellowstone bison.

The meeting coincides with Montana’s unveiling of the state’s new quarter, featuring the skull of a bison. “The new quarter is appropriate for Montana under the Schweitzer administration,” said Mike Mease of the wild bison advocacy group Buffalo Field Campaign. “A bison skull is the perfect symbol for a state whose policies favor dead bison over live bison. We were hopeful that Schweitzer would uphold the promises on which he was elected,” Mease added, “but under his watch nearly every buffalo to enter Montana has been killed.” Read the rest of this entry »

Amenity Ranch Boom Spreads East

Purchase of “working” ranches by wealthy outsiders is spreading far beyond the scenic hotspots near the National Parks and Wilderness areas of the Rockies. It is spilling out onto the plains where there has been a great depopulation as the economics of traditional ranching has collapsed.

Many places in Eastern Montana and the Dakotas now have fewer people per square mile than in 1890 when the Census Bureau declared the frontier was closed.

Hal Herring at New West looks into the phenomenon. Amenity Ranch Boom Spreads East.

Phoney property rights measure (Prop 2) goes down in Idaho; Arizona dummies approve it

Out-of-state developer Howie Rich’s Proposition 2 got the bum’s rush in Idaho, losing by an overwhelming 76-to 24%. Except for $50 all of the money spent in Idaho on behalf of the ballot initiative came from Howie’s group. Conservative Idaho voters saw it for what it was, a radical effort to remake the foundations of private property.

Rich managed to get his sneak proposal on the ballot in a number of other Western states. Mostly it was rejected, but Arizona voters fell for the bait and approved his plan to destroy any regulation of land use. Arizona, already notorious for their urban sprawl and wasteful use of water, will now have to pay people to not misuse their land and in doing so harm the property of others. To be fair, I should add the Rich’s Idaho initiative was the worst of the bunch. As proposed in Idaho, the nuisance maker would get money without even first being subjected to land use enforcement. I really can’t see any difference between what was proposed and organized crime extracting “protection money” from property owners.

If it wasn’t for paid signature gatherers, Rich’s initiatives would not have found their way on the ballot in any state. While I think paid signature gathering should be illegal, and bet most others agree, the U.S. Supreme Court in its wisdom has decided that money spent this way amounts to constitutionally protected speech, so paid signature gathering can continue to be used to undermine the basis of civil society for any number of schemes.

The Boise Weekly reports on Prop 2.

Back in the early 20 th century, the ballot initiative was created to bypass legislatures and governors who had been bought off. While this was and may still may be a great problem, the initiative process itself has largely become a route whereby special interests, not the public, try to buy themselves favorable laws, pummel the liberties of others, and generally make mischief.

Here is a summary of Rich’s mischief as reported in New West.

Added Nov. 12, from the Idaho Mountain Express. Cities hail failure of Proposition 2. ‘Takings’ initiative soundly defeated in Blaine, other counties.

Poll shows Oregonians now regret passing their state’s “property rights initiative”

It ‘s a case of buyer’s remorse. Oregon voters were suckered into passing a proposition like that before ten states this November, only Oregon did it in 2004. Now the state’s much praised land use lies in ruins and the Oregon taxpayers owe billions of dollars to developers whose “rights” were taken away by sound, public-spirited land use planning of years past.

Here is a story about it in New West by Dan Richardson.

Here are the Western states with “regulatory takings” like Oregon’s on the ballot next month: Arizona (Prop 207), California (Prop. 90), Idaho (Prop. 2), Montana (I-154), Nevada (“PISTOL”), Washington state (I-933).
– – – – – –

Update on Oct. 27. Montana’s Supreme Court has given I-154 the boot.

The court ruled 7-0 that those opposed to the initiative had given ample evidence that the signature gathering process violated state laws.

I-154 is another of Howie Rich’s sneak attack initiatives being billed as protecting property rights when it would do the opposite.

The court’s opinion, which was delivered by Justice Patricia Cotter, stated, “If the initiative process is to remain viable and retain its integrity, we can neither excuse nor overlook violations of these laws, for to do so here would confer free reign for others to do so in other matters.”

Too bad for us in Idaho that no suit was filed against the signature collection here.

More on Oct. 29. Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks Commissioners breath sigh of relief that I-154 is dead in Montana. Billings Gazette.

Posted in politics, property rights. Comments Off on Poll shows Oregonians now regret passing their state’s “property rights initiative”

Proposition 2 on Idaho ballot opposed

There are many copycat measures in other states. I have heard of almost no non-paid support for prop 2, which would by trick not only take away the protection you get from zoning but defeat efforts to conserve open space all over the West.

The features in Prop 2 on “takings” have no historical basis in American law or English common law. They are a radical reading of property rights that give power to the few to destroy the property of others (unless money is paid to the aggressor). It it also totally incompatible with protecting our precious land from disordered development.

From today’s Idaho Statesman.

Proposition 2 will take away property rights, not protect them. By Vern Bisterfeldt (Boise City Council)

Idaho Nature Conservancy opposes Proposition 2. By Ken Pursley. (Chair of the Idaho Nature Conservancy)

In late news, Proposition 2 is now being attacked from the right in Idaho as well as the left and center. Just go back to New York City, Howie Rich! Note that the Bill Sali referred to the link to the blog above is the Republican’s candidate for the US House first district in Idaho. Most Republicans leaders don’t like him (except recently when he has been carefully hugged with GOP leaders flown in, followed by the statement “he will [at least] keep the seat in Republican hands.”)