Colorado considering subsidized wildfire insurance coverage, insurers not so sure

The 2012 Waldo Canyon Fire was Colorado's costliest at nearly half a billion dollars until the Black Forest Fire the next year surpassed that. In October, 2020 the East Troublesome Fire incinerated nearly 200,000 acres of mixed timber and grass becoming the second largest wildfire ever recorded in Colorado.

It was believed early that downed power lines caused the Marshall Fire in Boulder County, today the state's most destructive blaze, and claims for damage are north of two billion dollars. That firestorm a year ago forced the evacuation of tens of thousands and evaporated over a thousand homes but Xcel Energy insists it isn't at fault. And while the cause still hasn't been determined the Boulder County Sheriff has still not ruled out weaponized wildfire.
Colorado one of a few states that do not have a so-called home insurer of last resort, or “fair plan,” created by the government. Michael Conway, Colorado’s insurance commissioner, said that’s because Colorado hasn’t needed one — until now. But late in the summer his office started to hear complaints from homeowners that they couldn’t get their properties insured. What really sounded the alarm was when independent insurance agents started telling state regulators they couldn’t find coverage for their clients. If they can find coverage, it can sometimes be outrageously expensive. But the private insurance industry is urging caution, saying that if Colorado acts too fast and makes mistakes, insurance companies may pull out of the state altogether. New Mexico, for instance, only covers residential properties for up to $250,000 and up to $1 million for commercial properties. [Colorado’s wildfire risk is so high some homeowners can’t get insured. The state may create last-resort coverage.]
Utilities, insurers, county commissions, lenders and developers need to be held accountable for building tinder boxes packed so closely together that homeowners can see into each others bathrooms. Counties should be able to fine property owners who fail to create defensible space or clear dry fuels. Well-funded local and volunteer fire departments could conduct prescribed fires and burn road ditches to create buffers where contract fire specialists don’t exist. But even government can't always protect you from your own stupidity.
Legislative efforts to make homes safer by requiring fire-resistant materials in their construction have been repeatedly stymied by developers and municipalities, while taxpayers shoulder the growing cost to put out the fires and rebuild in their aftermath. The insurance industry is also warning that if Colorado lawmakers and communities don’t reinforce homes against wildfire, mounting claims from blazes could put premiums out of reach for many. The industry supports a statewide building code. New homes are going up across the 9-square-mile burn zone. A recent drive through the area revealed many are being rebuilt with the same kinds of fences. With no building code dictating that the fences be made of fire-resistant materials, homeowners are using flammable materials that have been standard in the past, unaware it will again put them at risk in the next blaze. [Wildfires in Colorado Are Growing More Unpredictable. Officials Have Ignored the Warnings.]
Self-reliance or moral hazard?


Socialized agriculture killing Great Plains Aquifer: part n

Nebraska signed the South Platte River Compact with Colorado in 1923. In 1998, when Kansas sued Nebraska over its groundwater use the Supreme Court of the United States didn't even mention the word "groundwater" and although it never appeared in the initial 1943 Republican River compact the Court ruled its use affects flows.

Today, Republican counties throughout the High Plains where desertification driven by overgrazing and poor land management practices still yield scorched earth. 

The Ogallala Aquifer or Great Plains Aquifer, is being depleted six and a half times faster than its recharges and nearly all the groundwater sampled from it is contaminated with uranium and nitrates.
That’s because, experts say, generations of corn growing, feedlot runoff and oft-unwitting nitrogen overuse has left a sobering legacy buried in the Nebraska soil. It’s nitrate, creeping slowly downward towards our water supply. And Nebraska has the highest pediatric cancer rate of any state west of Pennsylvania, according to the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention. [Nebraska’s nitrate problem is serious, experts say. Can we solve it?]
Ag producers have destroyed shelter belts to plant industrial crops that deplete aquifers and now drought is blowing toxin-laden topsoil into downwind states. Spring wildfire seasons begin in eastern Colorado, western Kansas, the panhandles of Oklahoma, Texas and other Republican-held areas where moral hazard and poor ranching practices routinely decimate the high plains. 

Dead grasses are potentially explosive in a region where bison would have been clearing fine, flashy fuels just 150 years ago. In Kansas alone wildfires blazed across some 400,000 acres last year during a derecho that traversed some 1500 miles beginning on the Front Range in Colorado. Record high winds fanned fires some forty miles wide consuming power lines, fences and domestic livestock.
In Russell County alone, the fire killed 1,711 cattle — 1,359 cows, 36 bulls and 316 calves — according to data from the county’s USDA farm services agency. The USDA office has paid out just north of $1.3 million to Russell County cattle producers to help cover those losses. Yucca plants that were reduced to charred stumps are now adorned with crowns of long, green leaves. The layer of tan ash that blanketed just about everything has blown away or blended into the dirt. [One year after wildfires, Kansas ranchers vow to ‘get by ... somehow’]
American bison will eat a yucca, root and all. 

At a defunct AltEn ethanol plant just west of Omaha in eastern Nebraska 150 million gallons of water contaminated with 84,000 tons of pesticide residue have been determined to be too toxic to be spread on area farm ground. In February, 2021 two tanks at the facility burst releasing some 4 million gallons of polluted slurry downstream.
Picture a bathtub. But this bathtub has a very rocky, jagged bottom. When you pour in the water, the tub doesn’t fill evenly. Instead, it forms pools of different sizes within the crags and pits of that rocky floor. Now imagine that bathtub is huge: 175,000 square miles huge. It stretches across 8 stations, from South Dakota all the way down to Texas, including parts of eastern Colorado. That is the Ogallala Aquifer. [Less water, fewer farmers: the future of agriculture on the Ogallala Aquifer]
In May this scribe did a 2000 mile loop to Vermillion, South Dakota from Santa Fe County, New Mexico and back again where the number of cattle feedlots in Kansas, Nebraska and eastern Colorado draining the Ogallala Aquifer is staggering. The Arkansas River was dry at Dodge City, Kansas and thousands of confined feeder cattle there valued at some $2000 per head died in June.


Today's intersection: toxoplasmosis and human predators

Why do humans living in dense urban populations have higher rates of risky behavior? 

Toxoplasma gondii is a parasite that reproduces in cat species, whether domestic, feral or wild. Infected mice lose the fear of cat urine and are more likely to be preyed upon spreading the parasite even more. Toxoplasmosis has been linked to depressed mood, feelings of guilt and even suicide in humans.
In a study involving 358 adult subjects, a team led by researchers from the University of Chicago found that toxoplasmosis, a relatively harmless parasitic infection carried by an estimated 30 percent of all humans, is associated with intermittent explosive disorder and increased aggression. [People with "rage" disorder twice as likely to have a latent toxoplasmosis parasite infection]
More recently, toxoplasmosis has been linked to risky behavior in wolves after they ingested cougar scat while living in and around Yellowstone National Park.

The food web starts at level one so the more meat an organism eats the higher the trophic level and top (apex) predators are at 4 or at 5 where cougars, orcas and birds of prey reign. But is a human trophic level just the larder for a pack of predatory oligarchs who feed on miserable and quarrelsome superconsumers? Probably

Wetlands are being destroyed for cropland, livestock demands on water supplies dwarf the needs of cities, global biodiversity is threatened, Arctic ice packs are disappearing, humans are breeding less nutritious food and pesticides are killing native pollinators. Some of us believe the Earth is consciously reacting to an infestation of humans.

Although wolves and cougars try to avoid each other's habitats they are also known to disperse over great distances. "Moreover, the authors write in the study that it’s possible T. gondii-infected pack leaders could be leading their packs into more risky territory, increasing their encounters with cougars." 
To date, there are no effective drugs against T. gondii bradyzoites. In addition, drug-resistant T. gondii strains have been reported by researchers.”
If you’ve lived with a cat litter box in your house you are probably already infected with toxoplasma gondii. Virtually all hogs in confinement are infected and so are at least a third of Americans. The effects on the gene pool are catastrophic often leading to neuropsychiatric diseases including paranoia, especially in men. Toxoplasmosis is linked to Gender Identity Disorder.
“Nevertheless, recent evidence has shown that Toxoplasma gondii infection can change host testosterone levels and influence the development of some psychiatric disorders.”
Thirty-two percent of American adults say they personally own a gun, while a larger percentage, 44%, report living in a gun household. So, if a third of those who possess firearms are infected with toxoplasmosis how is America safe?


Arizona governor's border war stopped for now

Half of all migratory birds in North America move through the Sky Islands in the Patagonia, Arizona flyway on Sonoita Creek and along the San Pedro River.
Emily Burns, program director with the Sky Islands Alliance, says her group began placing wildlife cameras in the area in 2020, as the Trump administration’s 30-foot steel bollard border wall was going up and severe drought was causing animals to need to travel further to find water and food. Burns says cameras have captures [of] 26 different mammal species, including black bears, mountain lions, javelina and ocelots, but very few instances of migrants crossing. [KJZZ]
Even North Dakota-based Fisher Sand and Gravel conspired with the Trump Organization and its henchman, Steve Bannon to defraud the United States. Fisher Industries is a major campaign contributor to Earth hating Republicans like Arizona's lame duck governor and is being investigated for substandard work on the US/Mexico border. 

A Santa Fe County, New Mexico couple touring the area in 2019 was shocked at the level of Trump era paranoia and was forced to endure multitudinous Border Patrol checkpoints. Now, efforts to undo the damage to jaguar and ocelot habitats including on the Coronado National Forest have begun in earnest while courts sort the fraudsters.
But in October, contractors hired by Gov. Doug Ducey began using bulldozers to widen the road, cranes to stack the containers, and sheet metal to fill in gaps where the ground is too uneven for them to lie flat. A spool of razor wire now runs atop the metal containers in some areas. Federal agencies including the U.S. Forest Service and the Bureau of Reclamation have said the project is happening illegally on federal land, but had not intervened to stop the work on the ground. That changed last week, when the Department of Justice asked a U.S. District Court to order Arizona to stop building and remove the containers. [Fronteras Desk]
Democratic Governor-elect Katie Hobbs is calling the outgoing governor's actions a political stunt.

In a related story, reintroducing jaguars to the American Southwest is gaining momentum.

ip image.


Big Sky, Front Range await Amtrak funding

My maternal grandfather was a veteran of the Great War then became a career brakeman and conductor for the Union Pacific Railroad. In 1921 he and Grandma Panky honeymooned in Hot Springs, South Dakota riding the train from Humphrey, Nebraska. I have at least one vague memory from my toddlerhood going over the Continental Divide in Colorado while riding the California Zephyr between Omaha and Emeryville, California not far from Castle Air Force Base where my dad was stationed and where I was born.

Today in Colorado the Front Range Passenger Rail District is moving to connect service with Amtrak’s Southwest Chief at Trinidad through Denver to at least Cheyenne, Wyoming after receiving $9 million in June for planning and development from that state's legislature. As cold weather slows the Empire Builder through northern Montana both the Front Range and the Big Sky Passenger Rail Authority are eagerly awaiting some of the $66 billion coming from the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act or IIJA. Amtrak, Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway and Union Pacific are non-voting members of Front Range.

Beginning in 2003 the State of New Mexico bought the track bed that the Southwest Chief uses from just north of Lamy to Behlen from BNSF when the Rail Runner was being built. BNSF owns most of the rail rights of way in New Mexico and leases some trackage to Union Pacific.

Nineteen Montana counties plus the Confederated Salish and Kootenai, Northern Cheyenne and Apsáalooke Nations have joined Big Sky’s march towards the restoration of the North Coast Hiawatha. Lewis and Clark County is home to the state capital and has yet to support the concept citing lack of service while Yellowstone County, the state's most populous, is holding out for more money.
Offering sales on ticket prices and special travel packages, as well as restoring train routes suspended due to the pandemic, helped Amtrak start to get ridership back on track. Through the first nine months of fiscal-year 2022, the railroad logged total ridership of 16.7 million, up from 7 million during the same period in FY2021. Over the past 12 months, the railroad has recruited 3,700 new workers in part by offering competitive wages and hiring bonuses. [Flush with new funding opportunities, Amtrak preps for growth]
Imagine a time when portions or all passenger rail in the United States is elevated for wildlife egress through a future corridor between Mexico City and the Amtrak station in Shelby, Montana then on to the Yukon River in Alaska intersecting with a bridge over or tunnel under the Bering Strait connecting South and North America to Russia and the rest of Eurasia.

In the photo the man on the right is my maternal grandfather posing with a Union Pacific locomotive in the 1940s.


Some plastic and glass diverted from landfills being added to asphalt

Packaging, packaging, packaging: only 8% of plastics are recycled in the US and phthalate-laden bottled water alone makes for 1.5 million tons of plastic each year. 

In 2010 the BP oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico brought emergency to the abuse of Earth to make plastics while ecoterrorists Halliburton, Koch Industries, and Exxon Mobil reap record profits. Some plastics can be pyrolyzed to make fuel but according to a study conducted by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) chemical recycling is simply greenwashing and even perpetuates environmental racism.

After China instated her ban on importing waste plastics in response to the Trump Organization's destructive trade policies some communities are learning to improvise but it takes trucks, tub grinders and balers dedicated to specific materials on a regional scale to do recycling right.
New plastic is cheap. It's made from oil and gas, and it's almost always less expensive and higher quality. The result is that plastic trash has few markets — a reality the public has not wanted to hear. Today on the show, Laura Sullivan's two-year investigation into the difficult chemistry of recycling plastics. Many places offer recycling services, but only a small fraction of old plastics ever become something else. "I go into the grocery store and feel nothing but defeat, you know? You try to wrap your brain around, what do we do, right? You know, and support the deposit bills, where states will give 5 or 30 cents refunds when you bring them back. The few states that have these bills, like Michigan and Oregon, have really held down the fort for the plastic bottle recycling situation. This is a tough road, though. The plastic industry and the beverage industry have fought these bills for decades." [NPR]
Santa Fe County ships nearly all the plastic harvested from the municipal waste stream to Colorado where Denver and Boulder are among the best cities for doing recycling right. In Pueblo, Ecologic Materials Corp. is recycling shrink wrap and adding it to asphalt.
At least half a dozen states in the past few years have started pilot programs to test plastic roads, according to Melissa Savage, former program director for environment and sustainability at the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials. But states are monitoring closely to ensure microplastics from the new pavement aren’t leaching into waterways. Dave Condo, a Pennsylvania Department of Transportation environmental chemist, said the mix contains about 2% plastic additive, which equates to at least 150,000 single-use plastic bags. ['Plastic Roads' Are Paved With Good Intention]
Learn more at Recycling Today.


Toxic waste slowing development of deadly Custer County boot camp

Nearly nine years ago Brady Folkens of Brookings died in state custody after a botched diagnosis at the former State Treatment and Rehabilitation (STAR) Academy in a county named for a war criminal on December 21, 2013 then the State of South Dakota’s Office of Risk Management and Republican Avera lawyer, then-Lt. Governor Matt Michels helped to bury the evidence of negligent homicide. 

This case stank from the very beginning. Republican former Governor Denny Daugaard's lawyer, Jim Seward and even a Democratic former lawmaker engaged in a massive coverup. A cynical observer might see Daugaard's decision to close two state-owned boot camps as a vehicle to drive kids into the clutches of the Children's Home Society where he and accused child predator T. Denny Sanford enjoy financial interests.

In the absence of adequate news coverage by South Dakota media ignoring Brady's wrongful death this blog urged his mother, Dawn Van Ballegooyen, to attach a lien to the property where he was misdiagnosed but she ultimately dropped her lawsuit.
Dawn Van Ballegooyen and I found this interesting letter in Brady Folken’s file at Gary Thimsen’s law office at Woods, Fuller, Schultz, and Smith in Sioux Falls. Thimsen was hired to defend South Dakota authorities from liability in the death of 17-year old Brady. Notice the letter was date stamped by both the Office of Risk Management (run by Craig Ambach) and by the South Dakota Attorney General’s Office (run by then-AG Marty Jackley) – under the aegis of then-governor [Daugaard]. Proves to us that the South Dakota authorities made Brady’s cover-up a very high priority – so high that the law firm of [Heidepriem], et al., backed off. [Dr. Lars Aanning, Faceberg post]
After a public whimper petered out the death camp was shuttered and the sprawling property carved from the heart of Indian Country put up for auction. The stigmatized site was sold four times at sequentially reduced prices after the first buyer bounced a check to the state, the financing was unworkable or the scope of work proved too great.

South Dakota's school to prison pipeline began in 1983 when Republican Governor Bill Janklow concocted a plan to convert the University of South Dakota at Springfield into a prison. Janklow was governor when fourteen year old Gina Score died after a forced run in 1999 then the state settled with Score's family for just over a million dollars without accepting guilt for her death. 

STAR Academy's predecessors, South Dakota Tuberculosis Sanatorium and Custer State Hospital at Sanator have macabre histories of their own. Custer State Hospital was part of my foodservice territory in the 1980s and early 90s so I heard testimony from several employees who knew of the torture and abuse heaped on clients with disabilities many unable to defend themselves. 

The State of South Dakota had been removing asbestos, lead paint and other hazardous materials even before Brady Folkens died but progress has been slow as the state's gutted environmental division is ill-equipped to advise developer Mark Nielsen. Now, Nielsen is auctioning chances to push the three buttons that would destroy historic buildings with explosives but so far the public has not been invited to witness the demolitions. Plans to crush the remaining debris and integrate the material into roadways are still being discussed.


Hate group sues New Mexico on behalf of christianic physicians

Despite urging from the primate of the Church of of the Holy Roman Kiddie Diddlers to get inoculated during a pandemic a Sioux Falls, South Dakota school district with ties to the sect joined a 2021 lawsuit against the Biden administration's vaccine or testing/masking mandate. Representing the Diocese of Sioux Falls pro bono is the Alliance Defending Freedom, identified as a hate group in 2016 by the Southern Poverty Law Center. 

But now, ADF is representing a few religionist doctors and suing the State of New Mexico in federal court over language in the End-of-Life Options Act that they say compels providers with christianic beliefs to inform terminally ill patients of  “all reasonable options” then refer sufferers seeking eternal relief to other physicians.

In 2021, over objections from a Roman Church that preys on children and props up dictators, New Mexico's Democratic governor and unpaid legislators passed the law making a death with dignity legal for people with terminal illnesses. Under the statute a patient must be expected to die within six months and be able to self-administer the lethal injection. Some 120 people have made the choice in 2022 including a nurse familiar to Our Lady of the Arroyo. 

Colorado passed a similar bill in 2016 and some eight hundred souls have taken advantage of that measure. But frivolous lawsuits have become routine for the far white wing of the Republican Party after a baker refused service to an LGBTQ couple and a website designer sought to test a Colorado law then drove her righteous indignation all the way to the Pontius-packed Supreme Court of the United States.

Because suicide by violent means has become epidemic especially in red states Massachusetts is also considering an aid in dying law.


Today's intersection: Bendagate and the countries that hate us

South Dakota's current Republican governor wants to restrict land ownership by "countries that hate us." Fact is, of the 195 countries on the planet most them probably hate us but many have parts of the trillions stashed in the state's banks and trusts anyway. 

Kristi Noem's target is China even after her predecessors sold green cards to Chinese investors through the EB-5 program and the cash funneled into some 90 dairies, a cheese factory, a slaughterhouse and even into the Deadwood Mountain Grand resort. They’re all struggling to find help right now because of the crappy pay, the worse weather and the governor’s lackadaisical attitude about pandemic protocols threatening human life. Recall she called Georgia's two Democratic US Senators, Communists from the state that controls much of the means of production.

Probing the undercurrent that ties the unsolved death of South Dakota’s Richard Benda in 2013 with his EB-5 past remains a mystery for the political junkies who follow Joop Bollen's role in the scandal. The late Republican former Governors Frank Farrar and Bill Janklow built the dynasty trust industry

China hates South Dakota because the state screwed Chinese job creators out of at least $100 million. Republican former Governor now US Senator Mike Rounds began courting Chinese money in 2004 but escaped a thorough probe of his part in the racket or in Rich Benda’s death. 
This latest move by the Governor could open the door for another round of calls for greater transparency and regulation of the state’s trust industry and additional transparency in any participation in the EB-5 program. More than $360 billion is held in South Dakota and houses undisclosed accounts of interests from around the world, some of which could originate from China, Russia and other non-democratic countries. The question remains if Noem would support federal action to reduce the ability of dictators and those associated with them to hide their assets in South Dakota. The move by Noem may also create scrutiny of the state’s use of the EB-5 Program that grants a fast track to U.S. citizenship in return for an investment of $500,000 or more from people from other countries. South Dakota has used the program extensively in the past to fund a variety of agriculture projects including dairy farms and a beef packing plant, attracting investors from China, North Korea and other countries. [KBHB radio]
Probably not coincidental to Mrs. Noem's political grandstanding is the flight of talent from the state and calls by its entire congressional delegation to ease immigration rules. Noem’s christianic religionists are apparently void of any compassion and choose to blame Democrats for inflation as labor shortages drive wage increases. It’s hypocritheocracy on meth.

ip image of the Deadwood Mountain Grand was captured from the Presidential District.


Earth haters hope to corral public sentiment to stop invasive cattle removal in Gila

The Gila National Forest near the New Mexico-Arizona border has had a problem with feral cattle for decades after a grazing permittee went bankrupt then left his herd and the country in the 1970s. 

Because of pollution from cattle grazing American Rivers named the Gila the nation’s most endangered waterway in 2019. Then in 2020, former Senator Tom Udall (D-NM) introduced Senate Bill 3670, the MH Dutch Salmon Greater Gila Wild and Scenic River Act. It protects 450 miles and 23 segments of the Gila River and its tributaries in New Mexico under the 1968 National Wild and Scenic Rivers Act. 

If passed the bill would also transfer 440 acres from the Gila National Forest within the US Department of Agriculture to the Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument within the US Park Service and the Department of Interior. The bill was reintroduced by Democratic New Mexico Sen. Martin Heinrich in 2021 and it passed out of committee despite howls from the livestock industry. 

Also in 2020 the Center for Biological Diversity sued the Trump Organization's Forest Service, Fish and Wildlife Service and its local representatives saying the agencies are allowing cattle in restricted areas along the river. 

So, earlier this year contractors with the US Department of Agriculture's Animal & Plant Health Inspection Service or APHIS shot 65 unvaccinated feral cattle from helicopters on the Gila. Managers with the GNF believe there are some 150 of the critters still infesting the Gila so managers are taking comments on another round of lethal removals. But, it's hardly an easy alliance between preservationists and an agency like APHIS that killed 1.75 million creatures in 2021 including 400,000 native species like wolves, cougars, bears and bobcats.

Officials are compelled by the Clean Water Act to protect the watershed where some livestock owners have permits to graze and last week the Grant County Commission passed a resolution supporting the Forest Service but Earth haters are crusading to stop the lethal removal. There have been at least nine tries to wrangle some 800 animals from the Forest even though half of those varmints died during roundups and the rest went to butcher.

Yes, Republican welfare ranchers are apoplectic about shooting destructive invasive cattle from helicopters on public lands but they’re more than excited to slaughter wolves from aircraft.
“Our association still stands in opposition of that program,” said N.M. Cattle Growers President Loren Patterson. “We don’t believe that’s a humane or ethical way to do it. It’s not a long-term solution to the problem of feral cattle in the wilderness, and unless you’re going to address a long-term solution, we think that’s just an inhumane and unethical way to control the population.” Center for Biological Diversity co-founder Todd Schulke has been involved with the removal of cattle from riparian areas for years, and as a canoeist, he said he has seen the extreme amount of damage caused by these cattle. Comments must be received or postmarked by Jan. 9, 2023, and can be delivered in person or by mail to the Gila National Forest at 3005 E. Camino del Bosque, Silver City, NM 88061. Office hours are 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday. Comments can also be sent via email to comments-southwestern-gila@usda.gov. [Forest seeks input on more feral cattle removal]
Cattle trespasses have created problems on the Valles Caldera National Preserve, too as the Santa Fe National Forest begins seasonal pile burning nearby in the Jemez Mountains.


Black Hills paleontologist intervenes in Hong Kong dino sale

Citing discovery on Indian trust ground a Republican 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 unearthed and restored another Tyrannosaurus named Stan and creates replicas of what some call the world's second-finest T. rex fossil. Stan's fossilized bones were found by amateur paleontologist Stan Sacrison in the Hell Creek Formation near Buffalo, South Dakota in 1987. 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. 

A Triceratops fossil was unearthed from the Hell Creek Formation in 2015 and restored in Italy then sold for $7.7 million.

In 2019 a replica of Stan 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. The original Stan sold for nearly $32 million in 2020 to an anonymous buyer and today is in a museum in Abu Dhabi. 

Pete Larson has since co-authored and published findings from a study of the effects the Chicxulub asteroid impact had on Laramidia after the Cretaceous–Paleogene extinction and on the Hell Creek Formation near Tanis, North Dakota. But in November, auction house Christie's withdrew a T-rex skeleton from an event after experts, including Larson noticed just 79 original bones and over 200 cast from Stan in the fossil known as Shen which was excavated from a portion of the Hell Creek Formation in McCone County, Montana.
After a lawyer for Larson reached out to Christie’s with their concerns, the auction house added a note to its online auction materials, noting “replica bones that were added to original bones (referred to as STAN™ elements) were created by, and purchased from, Black Hills Institute of Geological Research, Inc.” [Christie’s Pulled a $25 Million T-Rex Skeleton From Auction After Experts Pointed Out That Most of Its Bones Are Replicas]
A thin layer of iridium, an element found in the Chicxulub bolide or impactor and separates the Cretaceous and Paleogene periods can be found near Raton, New Mexico. 

Today, a sixth mass extinction is underway but this time humanity is the asteroid

If dinosaur fossils are being excavated from unceded lands in Indian Country why aren't the proceeds from their sales being shared with Native Nations?


Enviros wrong to resist fuel treatments on public ground in SE Montana

Ponderosa pine only reached central Montana about a thousand years ago and coal seam fires regularly burn parts of the Ashland District on the Custer Gallatin National Forest but native aspen, bur oak and hazelnut are still crowded out by pine overgrowth. 

University of Montana entomologist, Diana Six has been studying the relationship of water, forests, fungi and bark beetles for decades. Her work outlines how native insects are clearing clogged watersheds being decoupled by the Anthropocene. The mountain pine beetle is hard at work clearing centuries of overgrowth throughout the Rocky Mountain Complex, so is the western spruce budworm. But leaving dead or dying conifers on the forest produces methane, an even more dangerous greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide is. 

In 2012 the fast-moving Ash Creek Fire burned bridges on US212 near Ashland and Lame Deer, Montana while another blaze nearby on the Northern Cheyenne Reservation, the Coal Seam Fire spread to some 700 acres. In 2017 wildland fires on private ranch land in southeastern Montana dwarfed those on public ground in the western part of the state. The Sartin Draw Fire near Broadus and the Battle Complex near Birney burned at least 100,000 and 185,000 acres respectively, decades of invasive grasses and poor stewardship to blame. The nearly 50,000 acre Huff Fire burned through the white supremacist town of Jordan, known as the home of the Montana Freemen. The Bobcat fire near Roundup in Musselshell County was over 41 square miles in size. 

Last year a smoldering coal seam started the Richard Spring Fire on the Ashland District that burned primarily in non-native cheatgrass beneath a ponderosa pine overstory. Fine, flashy grasses and sagebrush were the main fuel sources.

The Forest Service hopes the South Otter Landscape Restoration and Resilience Project will “help restore and maintain the structure, function, composition and ecological connectivity of the forest landscape in order to increase resiliency to future natural disturbance events like wildfire, insects, and disease." Commercial logging would take place on 41 square miles of the 292,000 acre Ashland District. Thinning of doghair pine and prescribed burns would happen on some 200,000 acres. 460 miles of new roads will be decommissioned after the project.

The Ash Creek Restoration and Resiliency Project would "restore and improve resiliency in forested and non-forested ecosystems within the Ash Creek Fire and other fires that have occurred within the last 25 to 30 years from Highway 212 to the northern most boundary of the Ashland Ranger District." 

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

Some are opposed to the treatments because categorical exclusions provided a bypass of the National Environmental Policy Act or NEPA. But, a fuel accumulation urgency intervened, local sawmills will get a boost of socialism, firewood for local tribal communities will be plentiful and the decommissioning of some Forest Service roads beats the hell out of bulldozers carving up hillsides willy-nilly to suppress wildfires on public lands

Learn more at Montana Free Press.

Image was captured with a BlackBerry on US212 near Alzada.


Losing chairs: Seiler out but Pearce will stay

In 2018 Roger Tellinghuisen and another Republican former South Dakota attorney general endorsed Democrat Randy Seiler for that post because they know now-impeached and removed Jason Ravnsborg is a criminal. Earlier in that election cycle Tatewin Means challenged former US Attorney for the District of South Dakota Seiler for the nomination for AG and she was probably the best choice to be the 2022 nominee yet nobody was even nominated to run for that seat allowing a Republican to win by default. 

Today, Seiler is 76 years old, chair of the South Dakota Democratic Party, out of favor and out of touch with voters but he did manage to pull the franchise out of debt and recommend shoo-in Veronica Duffy for a seat on the federal bench.

My home state of South Dakota will suffer brain drain for years to come and New Mexico has its own set of challenges but living where the Republican Party is virtually powerless and Democrats rule is well worth it. 

The kicker? After telling voters they can’t trust the 2020 election results Trump loving NMGOP Chair Steve Pearce blamed poor turnout on people not trusting the election results!
Pearce will serve for another two years, taking the party through the 2024 election. He acknowledged that Republicans haven't gained as much ground in securing elected positions as they'd like but said they're getting closer in competitive races. About 44% of New Mexico voters are registered as Democrats, compared to 31% Republicans. About one-quarter of registered voters don't identify with either of the two major parties. [New Mexico GOP reelects Steve Pearce as chairman]
Not to put too fine a point on it but Herr Trump’s meeting with unabashed anti-Semites sounds a shrill dog whistle to almost ousted SDGOP Chair Dan Lederman that he’s a target for members of his own party and even his own replacement in a state where prejudice is a sacrament.

In South Dakota, Earth hater registrations number 294,977, Democrats total 151,029 and unaffiliated voters tally 144,106.

 Readers can learn more about red state failure at the South Dakota Standard.

ip photo: New Mexico's flag has been named the coolest in America. The above image was captured at Mount Rushmore National Memorial in occupied South Dakota.


Today's intersection: clearcutting the BHNF could forestall West River pipeline

How will the Lewis and Clark water system boondoggle embolden the proponents of a pipeline to Rapid City? Will the military push Republicans to get on the socialist bandwagon? But a water pipeline from the Missouri River to Rapid City would cost almost $2 billion and rip up a few hundred miles of stolen treaty ground. 

One need look no further than the Black Hills National Forest for how politics has completely altered a landscape but there are plenty other public lands examples that illustrate the red state, blue state divide. Here in New Mexico public comments on the fireshed and forest plan will look way different than how they’ll read in my home state of South Dakota and in the Wyoming Black Hills

Dense stands of water-sucking, heat island-creating ponderosa pine concentrate volatile organic compounds or VOCs that become explosive under hot and dry conditions. The aerosols are like charcoal starter fumes just waiting for a spark. Ponderosa pine sucks billions of gallons from aquifer recharges, needles absorb heat and accelerate snow melt while aspen leaves reflect sunlight in the summer months and hold snowpacks in winter. Insects like the mountain pine beetle and spruce bud worm can help promote drought resistant and fire tolerant species like aspen. 

Overstory removal can work because conscientious land managers have learned that where fire is introduced after mechanical harvest emerging aspen and other hardwoods add biodiversity necessary to healthy ecosystems while sequestering carbon. 

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.
This week, Governor Kristi Noem and Wyoming Governor Mark Gordon urged the Supervisor of the Black Hills National Forest to produce another set of draft assessments for the Forest’s Plan Revision process. The Governors pointed to flawed statements “not backed by scientific material” in the Black Hills National Forest Plan revision assessments. These flaws included errors in both the data analysis and assumptions in the Black Hills Timber Sustainability General Technical Report. [Gov. Noem and Gov. Gordon Tell Forest Service to Revise Assessments for Black Hills National Forest]
It's the view of this interested party that Janice Stevenson is a scapegoat for decades of land management failures endemic to South Dakota politics and to the Republican supermajority that coddles Jim Neiman.

Yes, the Island in the Plains has been broken for over a century but the collapse of select Black Hills ecosystems has been evident since at least 2002 so nearly every national forest in at least 11 western states should be remanded to the tribal nations from whom they were seized including the Black Hills National Forest.

Every watershed on the BHNF is at grave risk. Preserve the mature, old growth and legacy pine by saving them from the Neimans, clear cut without building new roads especially where doghair guzzles water supplies, chokes aspen, birch or hazelnut and burn, baby, burn.


UNM schedules another fascist, protests and arrests ensue

After students of color holding tickets were denied entry to a September event sponsored by an extreme white wing group Rapid City Central graduate and Republican former intern for then-US Representative Kristi Noem, Tomi Lahren was driven from the University of New Mexico Student Union Building’s Ballroom B. 

Lahren is a white supremacist who was booked to speak on the first day of Hispanic Heritage Month at a predominantly Hispanic-serving institution in a state where the hate group New Mexico Civil Guard abandoned lawful protest and started shooting protesters. 

Charlie Kirk of Turning Point USA makes money by going from one college campus to the next telling whomever will listen that liberals are bad and Earth haters are good. In April 2019 sleepy Vermillion became ground zero for Donald Trump's war on America in my home state of South Dakota by hosting Kirk.

UNM schedulers expected protests but booked Lahren and Kirk anyway even knowing the decision would be seen as normalizing hate speech. 
State Police in riot gear showed up at the Student Union Building at the University of New Mexico during a peaceful protest and detained three protesters of color on Wednesday, Nov. 30. UNM Police and hired security looked on. “I really thought that if we were just standing there, that maybe they’d stop. I didn’t have any weapons. None of us did,” community activist Lisa Christopherson said. “And none of us were hitting, punching them or anything. Really just standing there.” Christopherson fears her ribs were broken by the officers who detained her, she said, and has symptoms of a concussion. Christopherson said she was never given any direct instructions to clear the ramp before being detained. [Officers detain demonstrators during protest on UNM campus against conspiracy theorist Charlie Kirk]
It's important to remember theories are arguably provable while hypotheses are often mostly informed hunches so conspiracy theories are not theories at all — at best they're conjecture and at worst they’re malicious prevarications, even slander or libel.


Spearditch Canyon goats pit locals against SDGFP

Speaking of killing unwanted mountain goats: Spearditch Canyon in the Black Hills has become home to a herd of inbreds. 

In 2013, 75 percent of Badlands National Park's bighorn sheep died in a pneumonia outbreak tied to contact with a domestic herd. But as South Dakota's wildlife management bureaupublicans release bighorn sheep onto federal lands, ostensibly to knock down a cheatgrass infestation created by the failure of Black Hills forest policy, the GOP-owned Game, Fish and Plunder wants to kill more mountain goats.

Spearditch photographer, Les Heiserman has been capturing images of a male and a harem born in the canyon after unions with the goat's mother and his siblings since 2016.
According to the “South Dakota Mountain Goat Management Plan, 2018-2027,” Custer State Park officials obtained six mountain goats from Alberta, Canada in 1924, and placed them in a zoo at the park. The first night in the zoo, two goats escaped. By 1929, the rest of the goats had escaped. This was the beginning of goats in the Hills. [Residents concerned about Spearfish mountain goats]
In 2010, the Odd Goddess of Basin and an interested party hiked over breathtaking Siyeh Pass in Glacier National Park where we nearly walked right up to a fearless flock of mountain goats lounging on a rock bench.
They go from “passive to aggressive really fast,” said Joel Berger, the Barbara Cox Anthony University Chair of Wildlife Conservation at Colorado State University. One of Berger’s recent studies found that in high alpine environments in the Rocky Mountains where mountain goats and bighorn sheep compete for resources, goats displace sheep — as much as 95% of the time when salt licks were the issue. And, while sample sizes differed across ecosystems, Berger said the results were largely consistent: “The patterns of goat domination, in all cases, whether introduced or exotic, were the same. Goats win.” [In the Rockies, goats beat bighorn sheep]
The outcry at Heiserman's Faceberg page is deafening.


Neighbors list lavender farm, nearly 51 acres

Our neighbor, Penny did three tours of duty in Iraq and is a burn pit survivor so she needs to visit the VA in Albuquerque three times a week for therapy and it’s just too far from out here in the boonies especially in the winter. If the United Snakes was a whole nation the funding for Obamacare, TRICARE, Medicare, the Indian Health Service and the Veterans Health Administration would be rolled together then Medicaid for all would enable Penny to just go into any hospital for her treatment.
Views, Views, Views the Turquoise Trail Lavender Farm sits on 50+ acres with a whopping 11-acre feet of water rights. There are two parcels totaling the 50 acres. 47 Cliff View is a stunning off-grid home offering 3 bedrooms and 2 baths with a 2-car garage that is currently [being] used as a workshop. There are also outbuildings, one used as a drying shed, and the other as storage. 60 Cliff View has a solar/generator powered well, two stock tanks, and is completely fenced for livestock. There are a total of 3 acres of lavender with drip irrigation, they are planted with Munstead and Provence both grown for culinary uses, and Grosso grown for its flower and fragrance. The home is well maintained and has some recent paint, roof maintenance. The solar system was completely upgraded within the last 3 years and is a very good system. The wells have good, sweet water and flow rate is 5-6 gallons per minute per well. You are surrounded by abundant wildlife in a serene environment. Get away from it all and enjoy the solitude and natural beauty that this amazing property has to offer. [47 and 60 Cliff View Rd, Cerrillos, NM 87010]
Other neighborhood properties listed include Beverly's 81 acres and Russ and Bea's 20+.


Architect of statute of limitations that protects predator priests passes

Paul Swain was a lawyer before he was called to the priesthood by the voices in his head and now he's dead. Swain was appointed to the Sioux Falls, South Dakota diocese in 2006 by Joseph Ratzinger, a famous gay icon who also covered up clergy crimes.

Swain was a member of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops and the architect of South Dakota's statute of limitations that protects predators from being prosecuted for crimes against children and vulnerable adults in a state where catholic congregations and the legislature have engaged in obstruction of justice since before Ted Hustead opened Wall Drug in 1931. In South Dakota at least thirty two members of the Church of the Holy Roman Kiddie Diddlers have been credibly accused. 

God knows who the rest are and so did Paul Swain but separation of church and state is just so bothersome in the chemical toilet especially when litigation hurts donations


Democratic SD legislator making national bison news

If cattle grazing is the key to preventing wildfires in ranch country why are mostly Republican counties still suffering near daily high or even extreme grassland fire danger indices so often even during the winter? 

Before the European invasion Puebloans in what’s now northern New Mexico hunted bison on the high plains along the east slopes of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains and today Picuris is one of 76 tribal entities represented on the Rapid City, South Dakota-based InterTribal Buffalo Council (ITBC). In 2010 then-US Senator Tim Johnson (D-SD) tried to make a portion of the Buffalo Gap National Grassland adjacent to Badlands National Park part of the Tony Dean Wilderness Area and in 2011 Senator Jon Tester (D-MT) revived the idea. 

Led by The Nature Conservancy, a non-profit that began buying land in that part of South Dakota in 2007, sold some of it to Badlands National Park in 2012. The World Wildlife Fund (WWF), Defenders of Wildlife and the Nature Conservancy teamed up with the National Park Foundation, Badlands Natural History Association, Badlands National Park Conservancy and the National Park Service Centennial Challenge fund to expand the bison range at Badlands National Park by nearly 35 square miles.

These days only about 500,000 bison inhabit North America and less than 1 percent of their historic range, just 3 percent of the Earth’s land surface remains untouched by human development and a sixth mass extinction is underway. 

Now, after meeting with Interior Secretary Deb Haaland during her visit to occupied South Dakota in October State Senator Troy Heinert's name has been plastered all over the national news for his work with the ITBC to restore the American Bison to tribal communities in the West.
Descendants of bison that once roamed North America’s Great Plains by the tens of millions, the animals would soon thunder up a chute, take a truck ride across South Dakota and join one of many burgeoning herds Heinert has helped reestablish on Native American lands. Heinert nodded in satisfaction to a park service employee as the animals stomped their hooves and kicked up dust in the cold wind. He took a brief call from Iowa about another herd being transferred to tribes in Minnesota and Oklahoma, then spoke with a fellow trucker about yet more bison destined for Wisconsin. By nightfall, the last of the American buffalo shipped from Badlands were being unloaded at the Rosebud reservation, where Heinert lives. The next day, he was on the road back to Badlands to load 200 bison for another tribe, the Cheyenne River Sioux. Heinert, 50, a South Dakota state senator and director of the InterTribal Buffalo Council, views his job in practical terms: Get bison to tribes that want them, whether two animals or 200. He helps them rekindle long-neglected cultural connections, increase food security, reclaim sovereignty and improve land management. This fall, Heinert’s group has moved 2,041 bison to 22 tribes in 10 states. [Associated Press]
American Prairie (APR) near Malta in north-central Montana got its first bison from Wind Cave National Park in 2005. The group hopes to have native animals grazing on some 5000 square miles or about 3.2 million acres of private land including 63,000A. in Phillips County connected with corridors to federal land owned by the Bureau of Land Management and to the Charles M. Russell National Wildlife Refuge. Total land including the purchase of 34 ranches is as big as the State of Connecticut or the size of Yellowstone and Glacier National Parks combined. 

Nearby APR is the Fort Belknap Reservation where the Nakoda and the Aaniiih manage a range with more than a thousand bison so building a tourist destination helps economic development for the entire region.

Sen. Heinert did not seek reelection to the fiendish, malevolent and Earth hating South Dakota Legislature so he can continue this essential work.


Convention of States too risky in wake of Big Lie

The United States Constitution is the finest legal instrument ever created by the human hand but when it was written the Federalists argued for a strong central government with co-equal branches. Today neo-Federalists advocate for a weaker central government with a strong unitary executive. Tribes are bound by the Supremacy Clause just like individual states are.
[The US Constitution is on] par with the Magna Carta and believed by many to have been divinely inspired. Holding a new constitutional convention today, as some are suggesting, could end up being a disaster. Again, on Dec. 8, 2015, Justice Scalia repeated his warning against a new convention when he warned the Federalist Society that “A Constitutional Convention is a horrible idea. This is not a good century to write a constitution.” An organization calling themselves the Convention of States (COS) has been promoting the idea that the answer to all our nation’s problems can be solved by having 34 states apply to Congress under Article V to convene a Constitutional Convention (Con–Con). An Article V Convention cannot be limited. James Madison, father of the Constitution, warned in 1788 that a second convention “would no doubt contain individuals with insidious views seeking to alter the very foundation and fabric of the constitution.” [Guest column: An Article V Constitutional Convention would be very risky]
It seems important to add that until Justice Clarence Thomas’ tenure the late Justice Antonin Scalia had been the longest serving member of the Court. Scalia resided in McLean, Virginia, and was a devout, traditionalist Catholic uncomfortable with the changes in the Church caused by Vatican II. He preferred the Latin Mass and drove long distances to parishes which he felt were more in accord with his beliefs. 
Who is on board with Convention of States Action? These names may ring a bell: Texas Governor Greg Abbott, former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, Dr. Ben Carson, Iowa conservative radio host Steve Deace, former U.S. Senator Jim DeMint, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, U.S. Representative Louie Gohmert of Texas, conservative personality Sean Hannity, former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee, former Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal, Donald Trump's former chief of staff Mark Meadows, former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin, Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky, Senator Marco Rubio of Florida, and former Senator Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania. [Steve Corbin]
The national Republican Party is in a box. If they don't nominate Donald Trump as their guy in 2024 he will run an unaffiliated campaign and they'll lose the White House anyway so GOP support to block him under the Fourteenth Amendment looks like its best course but don’t expect a sitting Republican to bring it up.

George Washington was a warlord because enslaved people afforded him cannon, muskets, powder and ball. And, if they were alive today he and President Jefferson would be horrified to learn the US is operating on a manual written in the Eighteenth Century. Abraham Lincoln and Theodore Roosevelt would be putting American Indigenous in concentration camps arguing it’s for their own protection. 

But prohibition won't work. Yes, bullying can lead to massacres and when the US ended the draft in 1973 the number of mass shootings began to rise so Congress should enact compulsory military service or police training as one way to slow gun violence. Enlistment could look like the Swiss model where soon after high school eighteen year olds would join for two years then re-up or enroll in the college or vocational training of ones choosing. 

Raise the civilian age of possession, operation and ownership of all firearms to 21, levy 100% excise taxes on the sales of semi-automatic weapons then tag the revenue for Medicaid expansion so parents have the resources to address the devastating effects of Fox News on American youth.

If it were possible and the oligarchs wouldn’t hijack a Convention of States a rewrite of the Second Amendment would be at the top of my list. 

Anyway, thank you again, Nino Scalia, for reminding us why Democrats need to control not just the federal bench but every court in every jurisdiction.


Enviros team with APHIS to end NM cattle trespass

The Gila National Forest near the New Mexico-Arizona border has had a problem with feral cattle for years after a grazing permittee went bankrupt then left his herd and the country in the 1970s. Because of pollution from cattle grazing American Rivers named the Gila the nation’s most endangered waterway in 2019. So, in 2020 the Center for Biological Diversity sued the Trump Organization's Forest Service, Fish and Wildlife Service and its local representatives saying the agencies are allowing cattle in restricted areas along the Gila River and its tributaries. Earlier this year contractors with the US Department of Agriculture's Animal & Plant Health Inspection Service or APHIS shot 65 unvaccinated feral cattle from helicopters on the Gila. 

Managers with the GNF believe there are still 150 cattle infesting the Gila so it's taking comments on another round of lethal removals. But, it's hardly an easy alliance between preservationists and an agency like APHIS that killed 1.75 million animals in 2021 including 400,000 native species like wolves, cougars, bears and bobcats. 

In October Caldera Action joined Santa Fe-based Wild Earth Guardians and the Western Watersheds Project with plans to sue the National Park Service for Trump Organization failures to control trespass cattle in endangered species habitat at the Valles Caldera National Preserve. Native bison, elk and deer have been hunted to near extinction in most of the Southwest or killed in collisions with motor vehicles so the US Forest Service has been scrambling to clear fuels Indigenous used to burn off every year. 

Pre-European Indigenous cultures in the Jemez Mountains and around the Valles Caldera raised turkeys, beans, squash and maize. That cattle have been allowed into national forests and other public ground for pennies a head is a crime that needs to end. But, in Montana, Republican welfare ranchers find great joy in slaughtering wolves from aircraft and the feds are killing feral goats in the Wyoming Tetons. 

As of October, 2022 the US Bureau of Land Management has removed over 19,000 horses and burros from public land and holds over 64,000 in confinement although the data clearly show livestock are far more destructive.

Democracy is messy business and it takes political courage to just say no to domestic livestock on public lands and pass legislation that compensates for depredation but bravery is a trait conspicuously absent in Congress right now.

ip image: the Valles Caldera in 2015.