9/30/21

Biden administration moves to save endangered dinosaur

Pallid sturgeon are living dinosaurs but when the Missouri River dams were built it sealed the fate of the now endangered fish. Scientists and the US Army Corps of Engineers have learned that unless newly hatched pallid sturgeon have several hundred miles of unimpeded waters they cannot survive. 

Rivers often disperse the extra sediment from behind a dam within weeks or months of dam removal. Removal of the Fort Edward Dam on New York’s Hudson River released so much contaminated sediment that the river was later named a Superfund site. A similar fate would befall the Missouri River if dams were not dredged before being decertified and removed; but, migratory fish would recolonize newly accessible habitat within a matter of days. The Corps has cancelled Spring Pulses on the Missouri River not just because of low flows but because the silt is so poisonous it would kill the very species it says it's trying to preserve. 

On the east side of the Continental Divide Canadian miner Barrick operates the Golden Sunlight Mine near Whitehall, Montana. Effluent from that mine goes into the Jefferson River, a tributary of the Missouri and much of it lies in repose within Canyon Ferry Reservoir. 

Below the Missouri River dams pallid sturgeon are showing signs of recovery but above? As pallid sturgeon goes extinct in the upper Missouri River zebra mussels are spreading through the system.
Under its chosen alternative, when reservoir water levels allow, the Corps would request that Fort Peck Dam begin increasing releases in April to see if mimicking spring runoff will attract pallid sturgeon into the Missouri River. Beginning on April 16 — only when Fort Peck Reservoir’s elevation is at 2,227 feet and other downstream and runoff factors align — flows would be increased by 1,700 cubic feet per second each day until the peak flow at the Wolf Point gauge reached 16,000 cfs. That flow would be held for three days and then gradually decreased before being boosted in late May to 28,000 cfs. The peak flow would be held for three days, and then gradually decreased to 8,000 cfs and held there through mid-July. On the Yellowstone River, a tributary to the Missouri, the Bureau of Reclamation is reconstructing Intake Dam — an irrigation impoundment — to include a two-mile-long bypass channel in hopes pallid sturgeon and other native fish will have access to another 165 miles of river above the dam to successfully spawn. [Plan finalized to test boosting Fort Peck Dam releases to encourage pallid sturgeon to spawn]
Nearly two dozen more species were declared extinct Wednesday.

ip photo: the Corps announces its presence near the headwaters of the Boulder River in Jefferson County, Montana.

9/29/21

Unvaccinated Republicans left no room for Montana derailment victims

Three hospitals in South Dakota operate as an oligopoly statewide and as monopolies in their own markets. Montana is pretty much the same: Benefis, Deaconess and the Billings Clinic operate as a virtual triopoly in that state, too. It’s disaster capitalism for oligarchs and religionists masquerading as health care. Senator Jon Tester (D-MT) has known about the monopolistic nature of rural hospitals for decades now red state Montana is seeing 1,200 people contracting the Trump Virus every day.

After Amtrak's Empire Builder derailed near Joplin, Montana many of the injured passengers were unable to find medical care because area hospitals are overwhelmed with unvaccinated Republicans. The Benefis Health System hospital in Great Falls is about 100 miles from Joplin.
“We ended up receiving five patients from the accident,” said spokesperson Kaci Husted. “And all five of them are still in house here with us.” “We’ve been operating above 100% of our typical capacity for several weeks now,” Husted said. “Somewhere in the 110% to somewhere in the 130ish% of our capacity range is what we’re seeing on a day-to-day basis.” Logan Health in Kalispell, Mont., – more than 200 miles from the accident – was at 94% capacity as of Monday morning and took in two patients from the derailment. [Boise Public Radio]
Empire Builder passengers blame Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway for the derailment. In much of the Mountain West BNSF Railway owns the track bed over which Amtrak operates. Investigators believe speed was not a factor and that heat may have buckled the track. Passengers sign a waiver holding Amtrak harmless.

9/28/21

Extreme wildfire conditions return to failed red state

The grassland fire danger index will reach the extreme category again today for much of Kristi Noem's failed red state creating conditions for widespread weaponized wildfire

This isn't national forest being blocked from fuel treatments by radical environmentalists; it's Republican ranch land decimated by a century of poor management practices. If livestock grazing is the key to preventing wildfires why is ranch country still suffering from near daily high even extreme grassland fire danger indices? Because Republicans are evil. 

Just a hundred and fifty years ago bison, wapiti, bighorn sheep, pronghorns and deer cleared the grasses driving western South Dakota's fire years. If grasses remained in the fall tribes burned the rest. 

91% of fire departments in my home state are staffed by volunteers in a state where old Republicans are giving up the ghost yet Mrs. Noem is boasting she has recruited some 600 white supremacists to be cops but won't commit to prescribing burns or bolstering fire departments. 

So, one solution to national forest and grasslands management woes is to move the US Forest Service from the US Department of Agriculture into Interior where Indigenous American nations could more easily assume additional responsibilities for stewardship on public land and be provided the resources to apply cultural fire to their own holdings.
Harding-Perkins-Butte-Northern Meade Co Plains-Rapid City-Custer Co Plains-Pennington Co Plains-Fall River-Oglala Lakota-Sturgis/Piedmont Foot Hills-Southern Meade Co Plains-Hermosa Foot Hills-including the cities of Buffalo, Lemmon, Bison, Belle Fourche, Faith, Rapid City, Folsom, Box Elder, Caputa, Wall, Ardmore, Oelrichs, Pine Ridge, Oglala, Kyle, Sturgis, Piedmont, Summerset, Ellsworth AFB, Union Center, Hermosa, Buffalo Gap, and Fairburn: extreme weather conditions and very low moisture content of grasses, and other dry organic material on the ground, indicate that critical burning conditions exist. All fires have the potential to become large and spread quickly becoming erratic with extreme behavioral characteristics. [National Weather Service]
Ash and soot from wildfires in the Siberian taiga are accelerating the loss of Arctic sea ice driving more frequent and deeper polar vortexes and soon the Yellowstone supervolcano will finally put South Dakota out of its misery.

Learn how blue state Oregon is mitigating unsustainable development in the wildland urban interface linked here.

9/27/21

South Dakota among fastest growing Latino population

 


It's not always easy to find similarities with New Mexico and my home state of South Dakota but one correlation stands out: the growth in the Latino population is surging. In the Midwest the Latino community has grown 28 percent in the last decade and in the Southwest it's grown nearly 20 percent. Venezuelans make up the largest inbound demographic. 

As young people and Democrats flee South Dakota more brown people are doing the work in the red moocher state. Meat processors and industrial agriculture employ the greatest numbers of Hispanics in South Dakota. Spanish speakers prop up the federally subsidized dairy industry East River but in Huron Karen refugees slaughter and process turkeys. So now that brown workers can take the driver's license exam in Spanish white people can spend more time snorting and shooting meth.

In North Dakota's Cass County the Latino concentration has doubled since the 2010 Census and in McKenzie County it is up over 1000 percent. Overall, in North Dakota the number of people who self-identify as Latino or Hispanic has gone over 33,000.

What do these climate refugees and migrant workers have in common with their Midwest counterparts? Christianity. "Pro-life" is simply code for white people breeding. African-Americans terminate pregnancies at about the same per capita rate as white people do but don’t take their jobs. Latinas, however, have fewer abortions per capita and the extreme white wing of the Republican Party knows it's hemorrhaging jobs to Latinos. 

And as the Republican Party caves on immigration after Governor Kristi Noem said she won’t accept Afghan compatriots in South Dakota wage slaves could make real social justice change by walking off their jobs then calling for a general strike and bring Kristi to her senses, too.

New Mexico has known about the hardships endured by both Indigenous and immigrants for its entire history.

Graphics lifted from the Timber Lake Topic.

Learn more at the Pew Research Center.

9/26/21

Recall of January 6th coup plotter sputters in Otero County

Republicans: cops on horseback whipping refugees are heroes.

Also Republicans: cops who defended the Capitol during Donald Trump's attempted coup are traitors.
Time is running out for a recall effort aiming to kick Cowboys for Trump founder Couy Griffin out of office as a county commissioner in southern New Mexico. Supporters of the petition drive in Otero County say they still need to collect several hundred additional signatures by next Wednesday to trigger a recall election against Griffin. The petition accuses him of failing to attend commission meetings, using his elected position for personal gain in promoting a support group for [Donald Trump] and violating state restrictions on gifts to public officials. Separately, Griffin is facing misdemeanor criminal charges in the Jan. 6. insurrection on the U.S. Capitol, where he appeared on an outdoor terrace and tried to lead the crowd in prayer. The recall petition highlights Griffin’s pursuit of travel reimbursements from taxpayers in Otero County for a cross-country trip in 2019 that culminated in a visit with Trump at the White House. [Associated Press]
In a video posted at his Faceberg account Griffin invoked now dead domestic terrorist Lavoy Finicum who helped vandalize the Malheur Wildlife Refuge in 2016. The Mescalero Apache Tribe banned Griffin from their lands after he made racist and derogatory statements at his Faceberg page.

An eventual confrontation between second term New Mexico Attorney General Hector Balderas and a self-styled militia group is about to come to a head. After a 2019 shooting at a Walmart in El Paso, Texas AG Balderas asked the NM Legislature for funding to form a "special investigative unit to guard against hate crimes and terrorism." Enabled by spiteful, vindictive bombast from Herr Trump the hate group New Mexico Civil Guard has abandoned lawful protest and started shooting protesters. Balderas' office has also been investigating predator priests.

Republican leadership is an oxymoron. The faster all the deplorables taser themselves in the testicles until their myocardias infarct the better. 


Above image was lifted from the Cowboys for Trump Faceberg page. Griffin is the clothed deplorable in the photo.

9/23/21

Scientist: industrial agriculture drives pandemics

As he monitored the news about Wuhan in China Rob Wallace was an evolutionary biologist at the University of Minnesota then he blew the whistle on industrial agriculture's role in transmitting diseases. The Obama Administration cut funding to the lab in Wuhan after teams from Australia, the US and China discovered this novel coronavirus strain in 2015 but today deaths from the Trump Virus have surpassed the number of people killed in the US by the so-called Spanish Flu in 1918. 
Throughout Dead Epidemiologists—some of which was written while he was afflicted with Covid—Wallace mercilessly attacks the complacency and fecklessness with which establishment scientists and politicians responded to the virus; he also surveys the damage that the pandemic has wrought on the bottom rungs of society. The book is poignantly dedicated to three meatpacking workers who died from Covid-19, and Wallace describes their barbarous working conditions in detail. But the book’s chief concern is the origin of the SARS-CoV2 virus, and Wallace works backward here, from the outbreak to the bat cave. To fully grasp why we’re living in an age of pandemics, one must first understand how industrial agriculture and deforestation work in tandem. The H5N1 bird flu and the H1N1 swine flu emerged from poultry and hog farms, whereas Ebola and Covid-19 emerged from wild animals. All are the result of zoonotic spillovers—when pathogens that originate in animals cross over to humans and then mutate in ways that allow them to spread to other humans. Wallace defines an agroecological system as one that is “tied to the state of the surrounding landscape from which resources are continually drawn (and returned).” [The Unemployed Epidemiologist Who Predicted the Pandemic
The number of acres in agroecosystems has tripled since the 1940s. Recall Mandatory Country of Origin Labeling or MCOOL was repealed during the second Obama term to shield American commodities from scrutiny because every ag product, meats both wild and domestic not grown organically in the United States is contaminated with atrazine, neonicotinoids, glyphosate, dicamba, DDT, mercury, lead, cadmium, PFAS, E. coli, Imazalil plus other toxins and pathogens.

9/22/21

I-25 traffic gridlock drives Front Range passenger rail as Meow Wolf Denver opens Convergence Station

I-25, especially from Pueblo, Colorado to Fort Collins through Colorado Springs and the Denver metro, sucks at biblical proportions as does flying into Denver International Airport so growth on the Front Range is driving planners to pick up the pace on passenger rail.
The city of Colorado Springs is hiring a consultant to determine where a new train station could be built to serve a proposed Front Range rail line. Before asking for money, the state will have an operating and financial plan in place, said Spencer Dodge, Southwest Chief and Front Range Passenger Rail Commission Liaison at a meeting of the Colorado Rail Passenger Association on Friday. Jill Gaebler, a rail commission member from Colorado Springs, said the Martin Drake Power Plant site could make sense for a new train station stop since it is right on the tracks and it is already publicly owned. "We need to start being strategically thoughtful about funding a new mode of transportation now, before we have absolute gridlock," she said. [Colorado Springs, CDOT preparing for Front Range rail ahead of possible tax ask]
Combined with some $5 million it has set aside, $1 million from the State of New Mexico and a $5.6 million federal grant Amtrak is conducting track and infrastructure improvements for the Southwest Chief between Los Cerrillos, Lamy and Trinidad, Colorado.

In 2020 Game of Thrones author George RR Martin and two other New Mexico celebrities purchased the Santa Fe Southern Railroad and the depot in Lamy. Martin is a major contributor to Meow Wolf's House of Eternal Return in Santa Fe and to Omega Mart in Las Vegas, Nevada. Now, Meow Wolf Denver has opened Convergence Station in a 90,000-square-foot building at 1338 First St. Meow Wolf even has plans to go international.
More than 110,000 tickets have been snapped up in Denver, with all weekend days sold through October and most weekday tickets sold for the first two weeks of operation. Interest in the other locations doesn’t seem to be easing, either. In Santa Fe, the House of Eternal Return has sold more than 256,000 tickets since reopening in March, and at Omega Mart, 600,000 tickets have been purchased since its February opening. [Meow Wolf Denver: Creativity on a fast track]
It's not in President Joe Biden's rail plan but if someday Amtrak, Colorado's Democratic congressional delegation and the Southwest Chief & Front Range Passenger Rail Commission connect the Chief at Pueblo or Trinidad to the Empire Builder at Shelby, Montana through Denver and Cheyenne, Wyoming it would intersect the North Coast Hiawatha at Laurel or Billings, Montana. 

Mineral County, Montana could be the seventeenth to join the Big Sky Rail Authority.
Efforts to restore passenger rail across Montana’s southern tier of counties has been included in Wyoming’s own statewide rail plan for 2021, which could include southern links to Denver or Salt Lake City if fully established. “Wyoming state or local officials will partner with Montana agencies as appropriate to create a regional base of support for expanding passenger rail service on corridors that serve Wyoming and Montana,” the Wyoming Statewide Rail Plan suggests. [Wyoming plan notes Montana rail authority’s push to restore southern passenger route]

ip photo: the Southwest Chief chugs westward into Trinidad.

9/21/21

Area couple interviewed in film flap

It's always a blast seeing local scenery in world class films. 

Beginning in October, 2019, Tom Hanks, the cast and crew of News of the World spent 53 days shooting in the high desert, forests and mountains surrounding Santa Fe. A billion dollar boost from the film industry has area economies enthusiastic about the future in New Mexico. Breaking Bad, Better Call Saul and now after buying Albuquerque Studios Netflix is building an industry presence in the Land of Enchantment.
Intermittent closures of N.M. 16 during the filming of Chupa — a Netflix film about a boy who discovers a mythical creature living on his grandfather’s ranch — riled nearby residents who said the production kept them from accessing Interstate 25. “We don’t want to mess with the film; we just want to go out to town to get ice cream,” Donnamarie Jones said Monday, adding residents on Red Rock and Baja Waldo roads had been told to take an alternative route while on more serious business, such as going to work in Santa Fe, traveling to care for an elderly person in the East Mountains and catching a flight at the airport in Albuquerque. Larry Kurtz said Camino Cerro Chato, the only other way in and out of the area, is a rough road that would have routed residents of the remote community locals call [Baja Waldo] through Madrid — about an hour out of their way. Kurtz and Jones said filming in the area has resulted in temporary road closures in the area before but said they’d heard from neighbors — some who complained about the issue in a group email thread — that tribal officials stationed at checkpoints during the production seemed less amiable than in the past. The production is employing approximately 300 New Mexico crew members and 650 New Mexico background performers and extras, according to a film office news release. A chupacabra is a creature that appears in legends, primarily in the Americas. It is said to attack and drink the blood of animals. [Phaedra Haywood, 'Chupacabra'-related road closure riles area residents, link mine.]
The New Mexico Department of Transportation maintains NM-16 only to the border with the Kewa Pueblo (Santo Domingo Reservation) but it's generally known as a state highway all the way to the Galisteo Dam which was built in 1965 and placed into operation in 1970 after floodwaters wiped out part of the pueblo just above where the Rio Galisteo joins the Rio Grande. 

When neighbor Kosta was killed an interested party met with state police, law enforcement from two counties, the Bureau of Indian Affairs and tribal police who all believe the Dam Road is a state highway through tribal lands but it's been under contention for decades. The US Army Corps of Engineers who built the dam has long abandoned responsibility for the road's maintenance and the US Bureau of Reclamation blocked access to a recreation area at the dam several years ago. 

The state maintains the frontage road portion of NM16 because it has a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the Postal Service and if there were any children who attend public school farther up the state would maintain it to where a school bus could turn around. The Corps is developing a Master Plan for the impoundment.

Because we rent our casita to Airbnb guests I've repeatedly offered to patch potholes but have always been rebuked by NMDOT and the Kewa Tribal Council.

The production company for Perpetual Grace, LTD starring Academy Award winner Ben Kingsley filmed scenes on the Kewa Pueblo's portion of the Galisteo Dam Road, the Cochiti Pueblo's portion of the Tetilla Peak Road and at the Bonanza Creek Ranch. The soundtrack includes work from The Dead South who performed at the Santa Fe Brewing Company in 2019. 

Sam Peckinpah shot a bunch of scenes for the 1978 film Convoy out here, too. Our property was part of the old Peckinpah Ranch that was carved out of the Kewa Nation.

Cry Macho, Dead for a Dollar, Stranger Things and Trigger Warning are all shooting at locations in New Mexico.

ip photo: a film crew is setting up for scene shoots last November on the Galisteo Dam Road under a gorgeous New Mexico morning sky. Click on it for a better look.

9/20/21

'Remove the Stain:' President Biden likely to rescind medals

One reason Republicans don't like Common Core history standards is that the curriculum long-ignored by textbooks includes genocide and near-extermination of American Indians by European colonialism. Teachers' wages in red states like South Dakota surf the bottom because Republicans are Balkanizing education amid a fight over Critical Race Theory. 

Revisionist history turned the Wounded Knee Massacre into a battle but Senator Mike Rounds (NAZI-SD) said he won't vote for the Senate companion to the Remove the Stain Act that would annul Congressional Medals of Honor for twenty war criminals responsible for the slaughter of children, women and men in 1890 at Wounded Knee in occupied South Dakota. We all know Republican South Dakota Governor Kristi Lynn Arnold Noem (KLAN) is a racist so now she is exploiting ethnic cleansing to advance her national aspirations.

Led by South Dakota State Senator Troy Heinert (D-26) a resolution in the legislature in support of revoking those medals passed overwhelmingly but President Joe Biden is likely to rescind those commendations by executive order.
U.S. veteran, Eagle Butte resident and Cheyenne River elder (aged 102), Mrs. Marcella Rose LeBeau/Pretty Rainbow Woman (Oohenupa) had an opportunity to travel to Washington, DC to meet congressional representatives about the Remove the Stain Act. When then-Rep. Deb Haaland (D-N.M.) introduced the Remove the Stain Act in the 116th Congress, she said the act was “about more than just rescinding Medals of Honor from soldiers who served in the US 7th Cavalry and massacred unarmed Lakota women and children [in 1890] – it’s also about making people aware of this country’s history of genocide of American Indians.” LeBeau and many historians contend that that Wounded Knee Massacre was an act of retaliation for the Union defeat at the Battle of Little Big Horn where LeBeau’s great-grandfather, Rain in the Face, fought victoriously in defense against Custer and the 7th Cavalry at the battle in 1876. [Another “Never Forget” Moment in American History]
With cooperation from Senator Heinert more bison are coming home to the Nations.

In Wyoming a Republican state senator who ranches near Mahto Tipila is sponsoring a bill to ban teaching CRT in public schools. 

President Biden should free Prisoner of War Leonard Peltier, too.

ip photo: lifting fog wets Mato Paha (Bear Butte).

9/19/21

Colorado moving to update offensive place names, whither Custer State Park?

In 2015 Senator Lisa Murkowski and the US Park Service succeeded in what Alaskans asked of Congress after urging the body to approve a name change for North America's highest peak to Denali, an Athabascan name meaning “the high one." California has finally changed the name of its famous Squaw Valley Ski Resort to Palisades Tahoe. 

Now, blue state Colorado is moving to rename Chinaman Gulch, Negro Creek, Negro Mesa, Negro Basin, Negro Draw and Squaw Mountain.

After successes by tribal nations renaming geographical features in Alaska and South Dakota Yellowstone National Park could see at least two name changes. Hayden Valley memorializes Ferdinand V. Hayden who advocated for the extermination of tribal people and Mount Doane is named for Lieutenant Gustavus Doane who led a massacre of the Piikani, part of the Blackfoot Confederacy. But local opposition has been able to obstruct those changes so far.

Veteran columnist Kevin Woster wants to change the name of a South Dakota state park.
Open your mind for just a moment, and consider this as an alternative name for Custer State Park: Elk Song State Park. Or, in the Lakota: Makoce hehaka olowan. Certainly lovelier than Custer State Park, however attached you might be to that well-established name. The Elk Song alternative was suggested by Lanniko Lee, a Lakota writer from the Cheyenne River Tribe, when I reached out to her through my friend, Chuck Woodard. Makoce hehaka olowan is wonderfully lyrical and appropriate for a 71,000-acre park where elk do indeed sing. And a closer interpretation of the Lakota by Lee has it as “Land where elk sing.” George Armstrong Custer, after all, had a bit of a reputation with indigenous people, and not in the best of ways. In some of the worst, actually. [Kevin Woster]
Senators Cynthia Lummis and co-sponsor John Barrasso have introduced a bill to permanently cancel Indigenous culture by blocking the name Bear's Lodge or Mahto Tipila from Devils Tower National Monument in the Wyoming Black Hills. With Democrats controlling the White House, both chambers of Congress and after a tribal member just became Interior Secretary with Park Service oversight the Wyoming Republicans' bill is likely doomed. The Wyoming Board on Geographic Names is notoriously slow in removing offensive names from geographical features.
The area was originally referred to as “Squaw Buttes” in a 1906 U.S. Geological Survey publication, according to research by the federal government, but “Squaw Teats” became more common starting around 1938. Board chairman Herb Stoughton of Cheyenne said, over the years, the panel has heard proposals on a number of controversial names, including some that contained the N-word. [State board considers name change for the ‘Squaw Teats’]
Learn more about Colorado's progress linked here.

Photo: Mahto Tipila rises above the Belle Fourche River in a shot from Thorn Divide.

9/18/21

BLM signal of transition from extraction to preservation another step toward rewilding the West

Interior Secretary Deb Haaland has released the outline for a restructured Bureau of Land Management promising to return its main headquarters to DC while increasing its role in the Mountain West by improving a demoralized Grand Junction, Colorado presence.

The US Senate has yet to confirm President Biden's nominee for a BLM Director who will focus on recreation, conservation and restoration while healing the wounds left by the extractive and livestock industries by connecting the CM Russell Wildlife Refuge in Montana along the Missouri River to Oacoma, South Dakota combined with wildlife corridors from Yellowstone National Park to the Yukon in the north and south to the Pecos River through parts of Wyoming, Nebraska, eastern Colorado, western Kansas, Oklahoma, New Mexico and Texas. 
 
Pete Geddes is Vice President and Chief External Relations Officer for the American Prairie Reserve in Montana.
In July 2021, the BLM released a detailed analysis of American Prairie’s change of use proposal. This comprehensive Environmental Assessment demonstrates that our grazing plan for our privately-owned bison will build a resilient prairie landscape, preserve our lands for public benefit, and contribute to Montana’s economy– all without harming Montana’s ranching community. The BLM’s “Finding of No Significant Impact” came after considerable analysis and public comment, including four in-person meetings in Winnett, Winifred, Malta and Glasgow. American Prairie’s plans are consistent with federal law and agency regulations. To suggest otherwise is to engage in wishful thinking, unmoored from decades of legal and regulatory precedent. Like other property owners, we are exercising our property rights that come with the purchase of land. [Why American Prairie Reserve plans are good for Montana]
Bob Howard, M.D., Ph.D., is a retired University of New Mexico faculty member and a co-founder of the Rewilding Institute in Albuquerque.
An important consideration for rewilding is the potential reversibility or “healing” of the wounds, whether by natural processes alone or in conjunction with human intervention and restoration efforts. Many grazing lands are otherwise minimally disturbed, with only a few fences, dirt roads, or built structures in addition to the grazing impacts, and hold high potential for rewilding. Many agricultural croplands will have been cleared, shaped, plowed, tilled, planted, and harvested over time. But so long as they have not been overly eroded or depleted, and not poisoned, they may hold significant potential for restoration and some degree of rewilding. In contrast, more permanent wounds from mining and mine wastes, Interstate Highways, concrete and steel structures of urban and residential and commercial and industrial development, may present major and long-term obstacles to rewilding on any human time scale. [Howard, Mapping for Rewilding – A Healing Nature’s Wounds Perspective]
Clear the second growth conifers and eastern red cedar then restore aspen and oak habitat, prescribe burns, begin extensive Pleistocene rewilding using bison and cervids, empower tribes, lease private land for wildlife corridors, turn feral horses from BLM pastures onto other public land to control exotic grasses and buy out the welfare ranchers Tony Dean warned us about. 

Learn more about the BLM proposal for Grand Junction linked here.

9/16/21

"Beat to hell:" Neimans pressured BHNF to overlog

ip photo of the Jasper Fire area from 2015 

I've known Hulett, Wyoming's Jim Neiman for over forty years. He's a ruthless negotiator and committed capitalist who would log the Black Hills into the dirt since he controls the Black Hills National Forest leadership and South Dakota's Republican congressional delegation. In 2002, the National Forest Protection Alliance (NFPA) named the Black Hills National Forest the third most endangered. Neiman Enterprises bought the Homestake sawmill in Spearditch in 2008. Now, after closing his sawmill in Hill City Neiman admitted 80% of the timber he has taken comes from public lands owned by the Forest Service. Neiman waited to close his mill until after Herr Trump was forced from the White House then blamed the Service.

Today, the Black Hills are tinder dry as an insect called the Ips engraver beetle is culling trees that are highly stressed by drought conditions. According to Kurt Allen, an entomologist for the US Forest Service in Region 2 impacts from the Ips beetle typically only last for two or three years but pine trees that are completely brown or red are dead and the beetle has moved on. The Forest Service generally allows the beetle to run its course and doesn't treat affected stands. Bark beetles shape water supplies throughout the Mountain West. 

As many readers are aware the first US Forest Service timber sale took place in the Black Hills near Nemo but only after nearly all the old growth of every native tree species had already been cleared for mine timbers, railroad ties and construction. So, Republican South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem is correct when she said the Black Hills National Forest has been poorly managed. I maintain that has been happening since 1899 and Forest Service Case Number One.
When artist and environmentalist Mary Zimmerman bought property within the Black Hills in 1988, neighboring public lands where that first timber sale took place had regrown so successfully that huge branches overhead “were like a cathedral. ”The site was thinned in 1990, removing some big trees but leaving many. It was thinned more in 2016. Then logging crews returned last year and took out the remaining big trees. Cattle now graze the area. “It’s just beat to hell,” Zimmerman said. Her account was confirmed by Blaine Cook, forest management scientist for the Black Hills for more than two decades until his 2019 retirement. Cook said his warnings that the forest was being damaged were rejected by superiors who faced political pressure to provide a steady supply of logs to sawmills in South Dakota and Wyoming. [Matthew Brown, Associated Press]
In May the Neimans even bribed Black Hills State University to defend the logging they do on the BHNF.

Most of today's wildfire potential in the United Snakes is clustered in Republican counties and according to the National Interagency Coordination Center that trend will continue through at least October.

9/15/21

Today's intersection: bridge fuels and lithium

Following the release of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's latest measurements Iowa Farmers Union President Aaron Lehman said that state's Nutrient Reduction Management Strategy is proving to be ineffective in controlling the dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico. But, Lehman is concerned that without further financial incentives from the Biden administration Republican welfare farmers will simply continue polluting waterways. 
Neither Biden plan — reduced biofuel blending mandates or increased governmental favoritism of electric cars and trucks — means the end of ethanol. Together, however, they make it plain that ag-based biofuels, and ethanol in particular, face a very tough future in the coming years. So, sooner or later, ever-greening American taxpayers will want to know why the nation continues to use ever-dwindling, irreplaceable natural resources to grow a federally-subsidized feedstock for a federally-mandated biofuel market that — mandate or not — is likely to shrink by at least one-third in the coming decade. [Alan Guebert: Ethanol's future is running out of gas]
President Joe Biden has established a task force to determine the social costs of carbon and has required federal agencies to immediately begin applying their findings in their regulatory actions and other decision-making. But, even if ethanol use has plateaued because electric vehicles are reducing the need to burn diesel fuel to grow corn Indigenous communities are fighting to keep foreign miners from gouging lithium from public ground held by the Bureau of Land Management. 
Demand is forecast to triple by 2025 as more automakers transition to electric motors. Jonathan Evans, CEO of Lithium Americas, says the resource will be mined and processed locally in Nevada - most of the global supply of lithium today is processed in China, he notes, making the US even more vulnerable to supply chain interruptions like recently during the pandemic. Tribal members are also curious whether the protest up at the camp will escalate like it did at Standing Rock in North Dakota, or possibly turn into another national environmental flashpoint, such as the battle over the Bears Ears National Monument in Utah. [These Tribal Activists Want Biden To Stop A Planned Lithium Mine On Their Sacred Land]
Hydraulic fracturing can waste up to 16 million gallons of water per well so here in New Mexico that’s often too high a price to pay not to keep fossil fuels in the ground. In the Second Congressional District alone the oil and gas industry left hundreds of orphan wells but because New Mexico is flush with cash operators just walk away from them leaving the state and feds to do the work to cap them. 

Santa Fe-based Wild Earth Guardians joined other interested parties in suing the Trump Organization's BLM to stop oil and gas encroachment on Chaco Culture National Historic Park. New Mexico's congressional delegation celebrated the US House passage of then US Representative for New Mexico's Third District now Senator Ben Ray Lujan's amendment to halt drilling on public lands near the monument but the bill did not make it through Mitch McConnell's Earth hater controlled Senate.

Ending America's dependence on 'bridge fuels' is an idea whose time has come. 

The amount of plastic in the municipal waste stream dwarfs remaining oil and gas reserves in the lower 48 so fuels, even face masks manufactured with recycled materials, can be done while oxidizing less carbon. 

Ores containing lithium are hideously carbon intensive to mine and the General Mining Law of 1872 allows foreign companies to exploit public lands instead of sharing the pecuniary rewards with landowners. But some decommissioned coal fired power plants are being remediated in part by harvesting needed minerals from coal waste.

9/11/21

Closure of Homestake Mine erased Democratic base but lab could reverse that


View of Homestake Visitors Center and proposed ice climbing location above the Open Cut from Old Abe Street

In 1999 we were listening to an NPR story about an ice climbing park in Ouray, Colorado, a former mining town that has remade itself by farming ice when my daughters' mother turned to me and said, "wow, they should do that in the Open Cut." 

It was if she had spoken with the Voice of God. The very next day I made an appointment then met with Homestake Mine General Manager Bruce Breid, an aerial photo of the pit displayed on the wall behind his desk. "What a brilliant idea, Mr. Kurtz, we have water here, here, and here," Mr. Breid said, pointing to locations at the rim near the Homestake Visitor Center. "Can you provide a legal instrument holding Homestake harmless?" Right. There was that. 

We all knew it was coming so on this date in 2000 Homestake Mining Company announced it would close its mine in Lead. But not long after the September 11 attacks and the anthrax hysteria, during an interview on SDPB Radio with then-governor Bill Janklow, a caller asked whether survivable space might be considered for the former Homestake Mine. After a familiar, but brief tirade, BJ the DJ said, "I can't talk about that." 

The 2002 closure sealed the exodus of union miners to Nevada and Arizona erasing the Democratic base from the northern Black Hills and much of Rapid City. 

After Janklow's successor, another former GOP governor dropped the ball by letting much of the mine fill with water Democratic former US Senators Tom Daschle and Tim Johnson brought the need for an underground research facility to Congress and worked tirelessly to bring the project to fruition.

In 2003, new owner Barrick announced the surplus of several properties. I led a group of investors to the Ross Compressor Plant, a magnificent architectural masterpiece that housed the three leviathan air compressors that had provided most of the pneumatic needs for the mine. They drove hundreds of miles of line lovingly and meticulously maintained by union workers for at least seven decades. 

The winning proposal for the property would gain ownership of these massive machines. Having realized that these three compressors could slow water filling the mine, I attempted multiple contacts with the Rounds administration. Calls and emails to Jamie Rounds went unreturned. We presented our proposal to purchase that would have moved the compressors to a mining museum. The winning bidder sold them for scrap then went broke. 

Neiman Enterprises bought the Homestake sawmill in Spearditch in 2008.

Today, naming a dark matter lab 5000 feet below Lead after a lecherous, usurious billionaire from Sioux Falls sticks in plenty of craws in South Dakota yet real science is getting done there. The Homestake Mine represents 8000 feet closer to the geothermal potential capable of powering much of the region. But South Dakota is dumbing down requirements for math teachers because graduates flee the state where the SD Republican Party ridicules educated people and perennially threatens funding for public radio. 

Now, scientists and scholars are repopulating Lawrence County making ripples likely to test anchored Republicans

Maybe.
Republicans today are much less likely than their predecessors in 1975 to have confidence in science. Meanwhile, Democrats today have more confidence than their fellow partisans did in the past. [Gallup]

9/8/21

Bighorn National Forest proposing kill of native plants for livestock grazing

If livestock grazing is the key to preventing wildfires why is ranch country still suffering from near daily extreme grassland fire danger indices? Because Republicans are evil. The lightning caused Crater Ridge Fire has burned 6,232 acres on and around the Bighorn National Forest since its start July 17. 

Desertification driven by agricultural practices, overgrazing, concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) and urban sprawl have turned much of the United States into scorched earth. Republican welfare ranchers are the real ecoterrorists who hate socialism unless they benefit from subsidies like cheap grazing fees on public lands. While the pesticide industry that greases politicos doesn’t give a shit about anything but profit native species are being driven from historic habitat by the descendants of European colonizers.

The Medicine Bow National Forest, the US Department of Agriculture and Wyoming Game & Fish have begun spraying the herbicide Rejuvra®, a Bayer CropScience indaziflam with a helicopter on cheatgrass in a 9,200 acre area within the Mullen Fire perimeter with the hopes of reducing, maybe even eradicating its presence.

Environmental groups are pushing back on the Bighorn National Forest's plan to spray a herbicide banned in Europe since 2002 on some 5,100 acres of native mountain big sagebrush and larkspur. The Forest Service burns about 600 acres of sagebrush in the Bighorns each year to accomodate the livestock industry. To kill invasives the Bighorn would apply imazapic and despite its ban in Europe, tebuthiuron, an indaziflam manufactured by Dow AgroSciences. 

Alternatives include no action or burning the invasives ventenata and medusahead and thinning larkspur and sagebrush without aerial spraying. Even a Wyoming Game & Fish Department habitat specialist recommends prescriptive fire instead of poisoning. 

Imagine what herbicides are doing to species like Townsend’s Big-eared bats. Wyoming Game and Fish discovered white nose syndrome at Devils Tower National Monument in early May.
The level of grazing today is “far beyond what the ecosystem could support,” Western Watersheds Project said in its comments. The Bighorn also didn’t address how adding more of the herbicide to existing amounts in the area might affect human health, Andy Stahl, the executive director of [Forest Service Employees for Environmental Ethics], wrote. Hummingbirds, too, feed on larkspur, Bighorn Audubon and the Bighorn Council said in a letter to supporters. Broad-tailed hummingbirds “drink nectar from the flowers and pollinate them,” the letter reads. Larkspur isn’t the interloper, FSEEE said. “Livestock are an invasive species on the Bighorn,” Stahl’s comment letter reads. [Wyofile, Bighorn Forest plan for weeds, sagebrush sparks battle]
The black bears, wolves, and moose sighted in the Black Hills migrate from the Bighorn Mountains down the Tongue River across the Powder to the Pumpkin Buttes where the Cheyenne and Belle Fourche Rivers begin then go up Beaver Creek near Newcastle into upper Castle Creek and down Rapid Creek to the Black Fox/Rochford area or north across Minnesota Ridge on the upper Limestone into Lawrence County.

9/7/21

Today's intersection: cannabis and the VA

The military loves TRICARE but through sequestration the Republican Party managed to cripple both the Veterans Health Administration and the Indian Health Service so GOP donors could push for privatization. 

The Republican government shutdown and the 2013 sequester not only ripped into military readiness the impacts on personnel are staggering. Since the second Bush administration invaded Afghanistan and Iraq over 30,000 veterans have died by suicide compared to 7,057 who died from combat related injuries according to research conducted by the Watson Institute at Brown University.
David Evans had just graduated from the Montana Youth Challenge Academy in Dillon. Two weeks after his graduation from the academy in 2007, Evans left for basic training. The next year, he was stationed in Baghdad. But some veterans, like Evans, have not felt the effects of the flood of money that the VA has received over the past 20 years. “I haven’t seen any of it, that’s for damn sure,” Evans said. The Army’s answers to his mental health issues were to shower him with prescription drugs, he said. ['A big cumbersome beast’: The rising cost of caring for veterans]
Democratic Montana Senator Jon Tester has been a veterans advocate since before he even went to Congress. His VA Medicinal Cannabis Research Act directs the VA to begin clinical trials to test the effects of cannabis as therapy for chronic pain and to treat the symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
While the VA has embraced the federally illegal status of the drug, agency policy does not allow discrimination against veterans who acquire medical cards in states where it is allowed, although those who do get their MMJ cards do so with their own resources and at their own risk outside the purview of the Veterans Health Administration. Until recently, cannabis researchers were required to only use plants grown at the University of Mississippi. Often referred to as “lawnmower clippings,” cannabis mandated by the U.S. government through the National Institute on Drug Abuse has been described as sub-standard, usually containing stems and seeds and sometimes even mold. It is often stored in freezers for years at a time. And it has no more than 9% THC, the active compound in cannabis — far less than the 20% to 30% in the cannabis sold at medical and recreational dispensaries. [VA sending mixed messages for vets about cannabis use to treat PTSD]
There is a growing movement among Democrats and others to fund Medicare for all but I like the idea of rolling the funding for Obamacare, TRICARE, Medicare, the Indian Health Service and the Veterans Affairs together then offering Medicaid for all by increasing the estate tax, raising taxes on tobacco and adopting a carbon tax. 


9/4/21

Another South Dakota dinosaur, another profiteering dispute?


Citing discovery on Indian trust ground a politically motivated acting US Attorney for the District of South Dakota upended local control and seized a thunder lizard named Sue in 1992 from Pete Larson and the Black Hills Institute of Geological Research in Hill City. 

A team led by Larson excavated and restored another Tyrannosaurus named Stan and creates replicas of what some call the world's second-finest T. rex fossil. In 2019 a 12 by 40-foot likeness of Stan whose fossilized bones were found by amateur paleontologist Stan Sacrison in the Hell Creek Formation near Buffalo, South Dakota in 1987, was moved from the lobby of the New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science to Farmington to make room for Albuquerque's new Bisti Beast exhibit.

After a public feud and lawsuit the first Stan was awarded to Pete's brother, Neal who then teamed up with geologist Walter W. Stein Bill. They unearthed a Triceratops fossil from the Hell Creek Formation in 2015 then restored it in Italy. It's expected to bring nearly $2 million at an October auction in Paris. Stan sold for $32 million to an anonymous buyer in 2020.
However, such sales have raised concerns from paleontologists in the past. In September last year, the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology (SVP), which represents more than 2,000 professionals and students, wrote to Christie's auction house about Tyrannosaurus rex skeleton Stan going under the hammer. The SVP said: "Fossil specimens that are sold into private hands are potentially lost to science." The organization added: "Even if made accessible to scientists, information contained within privately owned specimens and future access cannot be guaranteed, and therefore verification of scientific claims (the essence of scientific progress) cannot be performed." [The skeleton of the world's biggest Triceratops goes on sale]
Pete Larson co-authored and published findings from a study of the effects the Chicxulub impact had on Laramidia after the Cretaceous–Paleogene extinction and on the Hell Creek Formation near Tanis, North Dakota: A seismically induced onshore surge deposit at the KPg boundary, North Dakota. Humans are driving Earth's six mass extinction and are only on historian Christopher Lloyd's list of important species that evolved because of anthropogenic climate change.

So, if these fossils are being excavated from unceded lands that are part of Indian Country why aren't the proceeds from their sales  being shared with Native Nations?

Photo attributed to Pete Larson and the Black Hills Institute of Geological Research.

9/3/21

Indigenous Women Rising launches fund for those in need of reproductive medical care

According to SD News Watch 132 South Dakota women traveled to Nebraska for their procedures last year, 152 women scheduled in Minnesota, ten women went to North Dakota, 123 South Dakota women found care in Colorado and Iowa saw a jump of at least 200 out of state women who sought medical care that South Dakota refuses to provide.

New Mexico is the political inverse of my home state. It's where if the lopsided Supreme Court of the United States ultimately overturns Roe v. Wade women will still be free to exercise their reproductive rights because Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham signed the Respect New Mexico Women and Families Act that repealed the 1969 state statute banning abortion. In New Mexico Medicaid covers abortions and even transportation in rural areas to get to clinics in Albuquerque.

Now, red state governors have announced plans to compel even more women to go out of state for their procedures. These actions are not only the way the extreme white wing of the Republican Party raises money it's designed to break Planned Parenthood in red states and drive abortions even further underground.
One New Mexico organization hoping to address that disparity is Indigenous Women Rising, which relaunched its Abortion Fund Sept. 1 to help Indigenous people pay for abortion procedures or the costs associated with traveling to a state like New Mexico, Colorado or Oklahoma to get an abortion, such as gas, food and childcare. For now, the fund will cover only people living in North Dakota, South Dakota, Wyoming, Montana, Texas, Arizona, Oklahoma, Nebraska, Missouri or any state in the "Deep South" — who are planning to get an abortion there or elsewhere — or those who are traveling to New Mexico or Colorado to get an abortion, which is already the majority of the organization's callers seeking help. [New Mexico advocates are 'anticipating an influx' of patients after Texas abortion law]
Learn more about women's rights and red state failure at NPR.

9/2/21

West River Republicans making cannabis rules for counties, municipalities

Even before legal gambling came to the Gulch I've taken my proposal to mayors and council members to make Deadwood a non-tribal cannabis destination but they have always blown me off because they wanted the sports betting gig. So my position today is that the tribes must have exclusive production and distribution privileges. 

But in my home state of South Dakota local control is Republican control where city and county governments are dragging their feet on cannabis ordinances until the state's supreme court makes a decision on Amendment A legalizing for all adults. In the meantime, control of therapeutic herb is being argued by the various factions of the SDGOP so home growing is likely doomed.

Having lived in the Black Hills for nearly thirty years, twenty two of them in Lawrence County it's not surprising that the county commission there is proposing to take bids for a single dispensary despite a Planning and Zoning Commission plan for three but where it would be located remains a mystery. A government-owned store next to the police department in Spearditch is not impossible.

Meade County, home of a Veterans Administration medical center and to the infamous Sturgis Rally, is also planning a single dispensary that will cost an applicant a whopping $125,000 so expect Buffalo Chip owner Rod Woodruff to snatch that up. The county has yet to pass an ordinance for licenses to a grow/op, a testing lab or a cannabis product manufacturing facility. The Sturgis City Council has approved two dispensaries. The Summerset City Council allows for one dispensary.

Rapid City's Common Council is proposing fifteen dispensaries for therapeutic cannabis. Longtime Rapid City Republican catholic lobbyist Jeremiah Murphy is representing Big Dope during negotiations so expect municipal dispensaries to have to buy from a single no bid supplier, probably New York-based Columbia Care.

Butte County is considering up to $25,000 for an application fee and a dispensary could be run by the City of Belle Fourche. A municipal dispensary could also happen in Fall River County but in a southern Black Hills town named for a war criminal an application will cost $50,000. Tourist trap Keystone has approved two dispensaries. 

There is no relationship between the state's therapeutic cannabis program and Native Nations Cannabis on the Flandreau Santee Sioux Nation which is very different from states like Washington that operate with a compact. East River, Native Nations is struggling to keep up with demand.

9/1/21

CSU caught up in Land Back controversy

In 2019 during an episode of The Keepers, a podcast produced by the Kitchen Sisters and NPR, the lead Archivist at the National Archives told listeners lawyers are combing the records for treaties with tribal nations none of which have been honored by the United States. 

Despite the Fort Laramie Treaty of 1851 President Abraham Lincoln signed the Morrill Act in 1862 that distributed unceded lands in the public domain to raise funds for colleges. The Morrill Land-Grant Acts are directly linked to the Native American Genocide and Colorado State University is just one of those offenders.
On Nov. 29, 1864, U.S. soldiers attacked a village of Cheyenne and Arapaho people and killed at least 230, mostly women, children and older people. The Sand Creek Massacre is one of the worst mass murders in U.S. history. [The Proclamations Used To Incite The Sand Creek Massacre Have Been Officially Rescinded, 157 Years Later]
In 1980 attorney Mario Gonzalez filed the federal court case stopping payment of the Black Hills Claim award to the Oglala Lakota Nation. Gonzalez contends that the commission charged to make peace with tribes inserted language into the Fort Laramie Treaty signed in 1868 that Red Cloud had neither seen nor agreed to in negotiations. After the defeat of the 7th Cavalry at Greasy Grass in 1876 and the Great Sioux War Congress abrogated that treaty in 1877 and the Utes, Lakota, Arapaho, Cheyenne and others who migrated, lived and hunted all along the Front Range were driven into concentration camps.
The city of Fort Collins has promised to include the Native American community in future discussions about the Hughes Stadium land if CSU, the city and a private landowner complete a three-way deal for the 165-acre site in west Fort Collins. Before the three-way land deal was announced, the Intertribal Alliance for Hughes Land Back asked the city and CSU's Board of Governors to return the unceded treaty land back to native stewardship. CSU, in an official statement honoring the ties of Indigenous people to land on which the university operates, acknowledges the land it is on today "is the traditional and ancestral homelands of the Arapaho, Cheyenne and Ute Nation and peoples." [As CSU moves to sell former Hughes land, Indigenous people are asking for the land back]
The relatively small distance along the Front Range between the Canadian River in New Mexico and the Missouri at Fort Peck reminds me again how the earliest humans in North America thwarted by glaciers, the dire wolf, and Smilodon on everything north of the Sangre de Cristos terminating at Santa Fe, blazed the Pecos Trail from west to east into the southern Great Plains and Mississippi Valley to find an inland paradise teeming with prey.