Tribes closer to land repatriation after Valles Caldera ruling

During campaign stops in South Dakota and in the Apsáalooke or Crow Nation in 2008 then-Senator Barack Obama gave Indigenous Americans a ray of hope on the outcome of the centuries-long legal battle over the theft of some 48 million acres of their homeland. During the battle for Bears Ears Republicans nearly trumped the Obama-Biden administration’s efforts.

Jemez Pueblo considers the nearly 140-square-mile Valles Caldera National Preserve in northern New Mexico a spiritual sanctuary and part of its traditional homeland so the tribe sued in 2012 and appealed in 2014. Lawyers presented oral histories as proof of the tribe's claim to the parcel but a federal district judge dismissed them under the so-called "hearsay rule." 

Indigenous history in the caldera goes back at least 8,000 years and obsidian quarried there for knives and projectile points is found throughout the region. The ancestors of Jemez Pueblo or Walatowa migrated into the area in the late 13th Century after Mesa Verde was laid bare.
In October 2019, Valles Caldera National Preserve entered into a multi-year funding agreement with the Pueblo of Santa Clara for cyclic road maintenance on 54 miles of public and administrative use dirt roads within the preserve. [Tribal Co-Management of Federal Lands]
In 2019 the case went to the 10th US Circuit Court of Appeals and in 2020 Native Americans overwhelmingly turned out to vote for Joe Biden. Former New Mexico Representative Deb Haaland is Secretary of the Department of Interior with oversight of the National Park Service and land repatriation as part of her wheelhouse. 

Robert Hershey is professor emeritus with the University of Arizona's Indigenous Law and Policy Program.
Hershey said there is a "prejudice" in non-Native society that casts oral histories as less credible than testimony provided by non-Native anthropologists, ethnographers and historians. "You can't divorce these stereotypes from the colonial structures, and by colonial structures I mean, for example, evidentiary rules that prevent the admission of a great amount of oral and traditional history in court," Hershey said.The land in question in the Jemez case was declared "vacant" and sold to a private owner by the federal government in 1860, an event Jemez leaders described as a "a culture shock" in court filings. The federal government re-acquired the land in 2000. [Law Scholars Argue For Admissibility of Indigenous Oral Histories As Land Claim Evidence]
On Wednesday Jemez Pueblo was granted title to a portion of the Preserve after the Court of Appeals issued a split ruling creating a precedent for other tribes seeking to regain rights to their traditional homelands. The National Park Service released a statement saying further litigation is likely.

ip image was captured at Valles Caldera National Preserve where some scenes from the teevee series Longmire were produced.


Republicans tout low unemployment amid talent flight

Source: WalletHub

There may be no amount of money some employers can pay workers who already know the risks of working for The Man. 

In 2020 this blog called for a general strike to sink the Trump Organization and today the movement has morphed into what Anthony Klotz, an organizational psychologist at Texas A&M University, is calling The Great Resignation. Talent is fleeing red states as Republicans tout dystopianism as the best feature of their offerings to employees. But, it’s not about laziness, it's about equity or Maria shrugged, if you will. Republicans in Montana and South Dakota are bragging about low unemployment rates but seem to be ignoring the cascading brain drain from both states. 

According to WalletHub Montana is third of states where workers are fleeing but South Dakota is fifth in percentage of workers seeking unemployment claims and second in number of workers over 65. Because of talent flight and brain drain South Dakota is among the least innovative states, ranks 50th in venture capital spending per capita, 47th in R&D spending and 51st in share of tech companies

Montana has regained the top spot as the most lucrative state for doctors with South Dakota a close second. South Dakota has the fourth least punitive medical board and second lowest payout for malpractice while pay for doctors in Montana is fifth best but South Dakota is 29th in competition among physicians

State government in Montana is seventh of states reliant on the feds for support and South Dakota is fourth. Wyoming is the most dependent.


APHIS killed 153 coyotes every day in 2022

To better protect wilderness, contractors with the US Department of Agriculture's Animal & Plant Health Inspection Service or APHIS shot 65 unvaccinated invasive cattle in 2022 from helicopters on the Gila National Forest and nineteen so far in 2023. 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. 

In 2022 We, the People killed 216 feral cattle through APHIS but we also shot, trapped or poisoned over 56,000 coyotes or about 153 every day. 

Funded by the 2018 farm bill and reported for 2022 the rogue agency killed 26,371 beavers, over 14,000 red winged blackbirds, 478 armadillos, 244 badgers, 450 black bears, 515 bobcats, 820 red-crested cardinals, 204 cougars, nearly 20,000 brown-headed cowbirds, 4,300 American crows, nearly 11,000 white-tailed deer, over 19,000 mourning doves, some 4,000 ducks including those that feed on invasive zebra mussels, over 6,000 egrets, 540 American kestrels, over 3,000 foxes, some 20,000 gulls, 1,200 jackrabbits, over 2,000 hawks, 600 herons, 3,000 iguanas, 74 javelinas, 1,182 yellow-bellied marmots, 1,700 muskrats, over 8,500 black-tailed and Gunnison prairie dogs, nearly 8,300 raccoons, almost 11,000 common ravens, 4,400 striped skunks, 1.2 million European starlings, 1,600 mute swans, 137,000 feral swine, 440 wild turkeys, 380 snapping turtles, over 14,000 vultures, 220 wolves and 2,300 woodchucks.

ip image: a coyote drinks within range of a trail camera.


NM governor, legislature working to protect High Plains Aquifer from nuclear waste

Spurred by Heather Wilson, the Republican former US Representative from New Mexico's First Congressional District, the ex-president of the South Dakota School of Mines, bygone secretary in Donald Trump's Department of the Air Force and now president of the University of Texas El Paso, a Rapid City firm specializing in toxic waste had been floating the idea of a deep borehole in South Dakota where radioactive materials could be dumped. Wilson is an erstwhile Air Force officer and lobbyist linked to double dealing at laboratories with ties to the military/industrial complex. 

Today, Democratic New Mexico Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham is at odds with the US Department of Energy and Holtec International who seem to believe transporting diluted nuclear waste like plutonium over and over America's railroads and highways is completely harmless.

But Carlsbad's mayor invoked the bad old days when Wilson and a Republican former governor conspired to dump radioactive waste in Lea County. Carlsbad draws water from the High Plains or Ogallala Aquifer. 

Gov. Lujan Grisham’s response comes after the Trump Organization's rollback of protections that allowed Norfolk Southern to hide what chemicals its train was carrying when it derailed in Ohio creating an environmental catastrophe, putting first responders at risk and poisoning an entire population.
“The State of New Mexico remains steadfast in its opposition to the issuance of a license by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission for the proposed Holtec International facility in Lea County, New Mexico,” Lujan Grisham wrote. “We therefore ask that your agency immediately suspend any further consideration of the Holtec license application.” [Bill in-hand, Lujan Grisham renews fight against nuclear waste site in southeast New Mexico]
A nuclear waste dump would make southeast New Mexico a sacrifice zone that amounts to “nuclear colonialism," according to Leona Morgan, a Diné woman and organizer with the Nuclear Issues Study Group.


“You can’t be killing mountain lions and then complain about too many foals"

Cattle grazing on some 155 million acres leased on 21,000 allotments of the 245 million acres managed by the Bureau of Land Management in thirteen western states now outnumber horses thirty to one. Over 54 million of those acres have failed the BLM's Land Health Assessment according to data released through the Freedom of Information Act to the Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility or PEER. As of October, 2022 BLM has removed over 19,000 horses and burros from public land and holds over 64,000 in confinement although the data clearly show domestic and feral cattle or hogs are far more destructive. 

Part of an ongoing process initiated in April 2020 the Billings, Montana Field Office seeks to manage for all protections especially against inbreeding within the Resource Management Plan intended to address genetic diversity in the Pryor Mountain wild horse herd. 
The Pryor Mountain Wild Horse Range comprises about 40,000 acres in the southeastern portion of Carbon County, Mont. and northern Big Horn County, Wyo. covering lands managed by the U.S. Forest Service, the BLM and the National Park Service. There are currently about 200 horses in the Herd Management Area. [BLM SEEKS COMMENT ON PRYOR HORSE HERD MANAGEMENT PLAN]
The BLM has also proposed removing the conifers that are encroaching into grasslands and cougars are in the crosshairs, too.
The plan was panned as “pretty unacceptable to most wild horse advocates” by Ginger Kathrens, founder of the wild horse advocacy group The Cloud Foundation, based in Colorado. “There needs to be a removal, but this would be a real slash and burn,” she said. The herd is also well known because some of the horses display characteristics similar to the original Spanish horses brought to the Americas in the 1500s: “narrow but deep chests, short backs, with a sloping croup and low-set tail,” the BLM noted. Kathrens said her group also continues to advocate for protection of mountain lions in the Pryor Mountains, which may kill young and sick horses, as a means of natural population control. “You can’t be killing mountain lions and then complain about too many foals,” she said. “The natural way is the best way.” [Pryor wild horse plan would reduce herd to heal range]
The feds should buy out landowners unwilling to lease for wildlife corridors. Migration routes over public and private land to the Fork Peck, Crow, and Northern Cheyenne nations then into Wyoming's Thunder Basin National Grassland and beyond to North and South Dakota would help create the Greater Missouri Basin National Wildlife Refuge. 

We all know this: unless the West embraces rewilding on portions of the Missouri River basin west of a north/south line from Oacoma, South Dakota through the CM Russell National Wildlife Refuge to Yellowstone National Park then to the Yukon water wars will clog the courts leaving violent armed vigilantism to settle disputes. 

Clear the second growth conifers and restore aspen habitat, prescribe burns, begin extensive Pleistocene rewilding using bison and cervids, empower tribes and buy out ranchers or lease private land for wildlife corridors, turn feral horses from Bureau of Land Management pastures onto other public land to control exotic grasses and elect Democrats to lead the way.


SD Supreme Court will rehear Detmers v. Costner

In 1994 after the success of Dances With Wolves actor Kevin Costner purchased a 240-acre parcel in Spearditch Canyon from Homestake Mining Company and traded it to the US Forest Service for 900 acres just north of Deadwood in occupied South Dakota and east of the Preacher Smith Monument some of it straddling Whitewood Creek. Costner was ostracized afterwards by the tribal nations signatory to the Fort Laramie Treaty so he funded Tatanka: Story of the Bison, home to several of Peggy Detmers' magnificent bronze sculptures. 

After receiving only $310,000 of $4 million allegedly promised to Detmers she sued Costner in 2008 for breach of a contract they signed in 2000. It took Detmers nine years to complete the bronzes commissioned for the resort euphemistically known to locals as the Un-Dunbar property until Costner sold it in 2020

Detmers argues Costner not only reneged on a promise but that a lower court erred on a definition of “permanent.” So on Wednesday as part of its spring traveling session the South Dakota Supreme Court will begin hearing oral arguments for a second time in Detmers v. Costner

Homestake dumped cyanide and other toxins into Whitewood Creek for a hundred years so the waterway was named a Superfund site in 1981. But, before selling to Canadian miner Barrick, Homestake and Costner restored some of it in 1994 and the stream was taken off the Superfund list in 1996 when the deal with Costner was settled.

It’s believed Costner’s net worth is somewhere around $320 million.

The listing for the $7 million property is linked here and the broker just told an interested party via text that the sculptures are not part of the sale but will indeed be moved.


Republicans author bill to further erode Clean Water Act, WOTUS

Throughout its history the US Army Corps of Engineers has had purview over water that flows into bodies that can support navigation and in 2014, through the US Environmental Protection Agency and the Clean Water Act, the Obama White House moved to identify more closely the sources of non-point pollution. Despite a judge's ruling EPA went forward with a new federal rule protecting small streams, tributaries and wetlands. 

Sackett v. EPA is in the Supreme Court of the United States today as a test of the authority of the agency to regulate wetland protection when 'significant nexus' or a scientific connection is established to downstream waters of the United States or WOTUS.

So, as a result of two years research the US Forest Service and taxpayers are buying a less poisonous ammonium phosphate-based compound from Perimeter Solutions. PHOS-CHEK LCE20-Fx is essentially a fertilizer mixed with a red dye for increased visibility from the air but because of its toxicity air tankers applying the retardant on wildfires must avoid waterways to prevent fish kills or harm to crustaceans and invertebrates.

The USFS and the other public land managers buy and apply millions of tons of chemicals every year including fire retardants so in 2022 the Forest Service Employees for Environmental Ethics (FSEEE) sued the Service for pollution caused by the chemical dropped near streams endangering imperiled native species. So, twenty Earth haters in the House of Representatives and five in the Senate have introduced a bill intended to create an exemption to the Clean Water Act for federal, state, local, and tribal agencies to use retardants to fight wildfires. They have also requested an injunction to continue the use of retardants until the Forest Service receives a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit. The Forest Service and other federal agencies contend that such a permit is "not required for the use of fire retardant because the regulations specifically state that fire control is a 'non-point source silvicultural activity' and communications from EPA dating back to 1993 indicated a permit is not required."

In the past slurry bombers usually dropped two toxic PHOS-CHEK products on wildland fires. LC95A is a liquid concentrate and MVP100 is a powder mixed with water at tanker bases. 

Fact is: it’s far, far cheaper to bill the feds after a wildfire than it is to conduct fuel treatments. That’s because it's more expeditious to litigate forgiveness than to ask for permission. So, how is applying fertilizer that was developed by Monsanto in the 1960s then spraying another Bayer CropScience poison to control weeds on public lands after wildfires either conservative or sustainable? Isn't lobbyist capitalism just another reason to move the Forest Service from US Department of Agriculture into Interior? 

ip photo: dyed weed killer coats rocks near a waterway on the Black Hills National Forest.


BLM, USFS cooperation in Pactola watershed welcome

Bureau of Land Management Director Tracy Stone-Manning has called nearly every Trump era ruling illegal including its failure to manage mustangs safely while blows to morale and an exodus of employees have contributed to horse mortalities during gathers. So, a year ago Interior Secretary Deb Haaland released the outline for a restructured BLM promising to return its main headquarters to DC while increasing its role in the Mountain West by improving a demoralized Grand Junction, Colorado presence. 

Today, putting the country on the path of protecting at least 30 percent of our land and 30 percent of our ocean areas by 2030 (30x30) is imperative to preserving public lands especially now as the worst megadrought in at least 1200 years is driving desertification in most of the western United States. A supermajority of registered voters in the Mountain West agrees according to bipartisan polling conducted by the Colorado College State of the Rockies project. 

In 2022, as part of the 30x30 Initiative the BLM purchased about twenty acres of an old mining claim on unceded Lakota ground just outside the Deadwood city limits. The parcel abuts the Grizzly Gulch burn so visitors can drive up Terrace Street to a trailhead. In a phone interview with an interested party Supervisor Chip Kimball at the BLM Field Office in Belle Fourche said the City of Deadwood wouldn’t grant an easement compelling this acquisition. Black Hills Trails is developing a system of footpaths.

Often powerless to resist the extractive industry the Black Hills National Forest took comments on a 2021 proposal from F3 Gold to drill on 2,500 sites near Silver City and explore above the Rapid Creek inlet to Pactola Reservoir on claims that actually extend into the lake. But on 17 March, the BLM and the Forest Service announced a proposal to protect tribal, cultural and natural resources in the Pactola Reservoir watershed.
In response to concerns about potential impacts of mining on the area’s natural resources and municipal water supply, the administration is initiating consideration of a 20-year withdrawal of this critical watershed on national forest system lands from location, entry, appropriation, and disposal under the mining laws and the mineral and geothermal leasing laws, subject to valid existing rights. “The BLM is pleased to work with the USDA Forest Service on this effort,” said BLM Director Tracy Stone-Manning. “This proposal will help protect a primary source of drinking water for South Dakotans as the Forest Service assesses a 20-year withdrawal.” 
“The Pactola Reservoir and the Rapid Creek watershed provides drinking water for Pennington County, Rapid City and Ellsworth Air Force Base, representing the second largest population center in South Dakota” said Forest Service Chief Randy Moore. “The Pactola Reservoir area includes valued cultural and natural resources important to tribes and local communities. We’re going to study the feasibility of withdrawing lands in the area because any activity that might affect these critical resources deserves a thorough review.” [press release]
So, one solution to making America the Beautiful again and solving national forest and grasslands management woes is moving the US Forest Service from the US Department of Agriculture into Interior where tribal nations could more easily assume additional responsibilities for stewardship on public land, returning the resources to apply cultural fire to their own holdings and rewilding the West.

ip photo: a hole through mostly solid rock above Pactola is a window into ancient processes. 


Playing God: feds funding chemtrails again

In parts of the Southwest some authorities are so fearful of deficits in water supplies they've entertained Durango, Colorado-based Western Weather Consultants' pitch to acquire a “weather control and precipitation enhancement license" from the New Mexico Interstate Stream Commission but after criticism for not consulting with pueblos the application was withdrawn in 2022. 

Now, over objections from the environmental community the commission's Weather Control Committee has approved a Texas company's bid for weather modification in mostly Republican Chaves, Colfax, Curry, DeBaca, Eddy, Guadalupe, Harding, Lea, Lincoln, Otero, Quay, Roosevelt and Union Counties. Mora and San Miguel Counties were excluded because of flooding in the aftermath of the Calf Canyon/Hermits Peak Fires.
"I am opposed to cloud seeding. This could cause additional flooding in the burn scar," Joseph Griego, a Mora resident, submitted to the ISC. "The danger of health risks involved in this process is unknown. Please stop playing God with the weather." Citing concerns that modified rainfall might occur outside the project boundaries, commissioner Phoebe Suina cast the lone vote to deny the application. Suina is a member of San Felipe Pueblo and Cochiti Pueblo, and has a background in post-wildfire disaster recovery, including experience with flood mitigation within the 2000 Cerro Grande burn scar. [Company claims 15 percent more rain from cloud seeding]
Watersheds in southern Colorado and northern New Mexico provide between 50-75% of the water found in the Rio Grande but irrigators in Colorado, New Mexico and Texas take at least 80% of that from the 1,885 mile long river. A compact limits Colorado to 100,000 acre feet and New Mexico to 200,000 acre feet each year. An acre foot is almost 326,000 gallons. 

The Interior Department's Bureau of Reclamation ended its funding for geoengineering in the early 2000s but after the agency mandated conservation efforts in the states that rely on the Colorado River taxpayer dollars are being shot into Earth's atmosphere once again.  
The Southern Nevada Water Authority on Thursday voted to accept a $2.4 million grant from the Bureau of Reclamation to fund cloud seeding in other Western states whose rivers feed the parched desert region. The federal funding will go toward upgrading manual generators to ones that can be remotely operated, and using planes to seed clouds in key parts of the Upper Colorado River Basin, according to Southern Nevada Water Authority documents for its board meeting. The Bureau of Reclamation declined to comment about the funding decision. The grant from the bureau will be spread out over two years, temporarily doubling financial support for the Upper Basin cloud seeding from outside parties. [Feds spend $2.4 million on cloud seeding for Colorado River]
Exhaust gases from aircraft are indeed mostly water vapor that become visible as a function of the dew point then often form cirrus clouds at higher altitudes and alter microclimates. But, in the name of geoengineering or albedo modification the US Air Force routinely sprays into the atmosphere an aerosol cocktail of silver iodide, lead iodide, aluminum oxide, barium, frozen carbon dioxide, common salt, soot from burning hazardous waste in pits and concocted at some of its bases. 

ip photo: a contrail disperses water vapor and unburned gases over Santa Fe County.


But is it really a flying car?

As a kid conceived and born hearing bombers leaving a runway human flight was a literal reality. At Dow Air Force Base in Maine my second grade teacher would have to stop talking while the windows in school rattled as another wave of B-52s loaded with armed nukes headed for the boundary of the former Soviet Union. 

A giant framed photo of the XB-70 Valkyrie adorned my bedroom wall at the farm outside Elkton. I was a stupid punk, had a very high draft number, ignored a Presidential appointment to the United States Air Force Academy (an entitlement for a dependent of CMSgt Lawrence E. Kurtz, USAF (Ret)) because Richard Fucking Nixon was Commander-in-Chief; and, because my glasses prevented me from being a pilot.

My twenties were spent under a hang glider either aloft or waiting for wind on the top of a mountain somewhere drooling over the Aurora 400 in the back of Popular Mechanics. I even learned volumes about the V-22 Osprey before it entered service. A crash on my birthday in 1982 compelled the purchase of a sailboat instead of a new glider so a design for a tilt-rotor aircraft using three Hirth two-stroke engines and the remains of my crashed ship lies at the bottom of the box holding my "failure files." My dad even mused his surprise that the concept of a flying car in every garage hadn't materialized in his lifetime. 

In 1996, Paul Moller convinced me to pursue a brief sales fantasy so vertical take-off and landing or VTOL became an obsession. Now, he calls the technology, advanced air mobility or AAM.
Today, 34 years later, Moller wears smaller, frameless glasses. His hair, combed back, looks only slightly grayer than in the news reel. His appearance alone offers few clues that Moller is now 85 years old. He still speaks like he did back in 1988—with relentless optimism. “If you walk through the details, batteries create technical problems, but they also create FAA problems,” Moller says. “And I ran away from that.”For now, Moller keeps a close eye on the eVTOL landscape and writes extensive reports comparing different companies. [Fast Company]
Doroni Aerospace is a Miami-based company testing a two seat $350,000 electric VTOL designed for short trips as a Light Sport Aircraft that only requires a driver's license and twenty hours training. The manufacturer expects to market the machine initially to first responders, law enforcement and the military then for general aviation but whether it will ever appear on a highway remains a mystery.

New Mexico cannabis sales blazing to new highs

New Mexico 606 dispensaries have sold some $440 million worth of cannabis since April, 2022 when sales began for all adults and the state is lauding boosts to the economy, burgeoning revenues, erasing the inequities left by the war on drugs and balancing the state's water crisis with growers.

In February, combined therapeutic and "recreational" sales topped $41.6 million where therapeutic purchases were nearly $14 million through 262,000 transactions and other sales were almost $28 million through 626,000 transactions. Total transactions are smoking to almost 10 million. 

The Cannabis Regulation Act was signed by Governor Lujan Grisham and became effective June 29, 2021.


Another racist incident mars high school hoops

In 1888 L. Frank Baum of Oz fame began editing the South Dakota newspaper The Aberdeen Saturday Pioneer where he advocated for the extermination of American Indians. In the early days of South Dakota statehood Indian agents embezzled federal funds meant for tribal nations, just like James McLaughlin did. Mount Rushmore is South Dakota's premier example of white nationalist ideology. Its sculptor was a member of the Ku Klux Klan.

Little has changed.

In 2015 after Trace O'Connell and a wad of other entitled white guys from Philip spilled beer on a group of American Horse School students Rapid City businesses shat all over themselves trying to extinguish the wildfire of anger. Organizers of the Lakota Nation Invitational even sought alternative locations for the annual event — Sioux Falls, Bismarck and Spearditch were considered. That same year Watertown High School finally dropped a racist ritual called Ki-Yi.

In 2017 a South Dakota school board voted unanimously to cancel homecoming activities that would have featured a football game between the Sturgis Scoopers and the Pine Ridge Thorpes after a car bearing hate speech and a symbol painted on it that some said resembled a swastika was smashed by Sturgis students. 

In April 2019 sleepy Vermillion became ground zero for Donald Trump's war on America in South Dakota by hosting Charlie Kirk. 

In 2022 five tribal chairpersons and presidents called for a boycott of Rapid City after the owners of the Grand Gateway Hotel leveled racist diatribes at Indigenous Americans there. Confederate flags routinely fly in Rapid City showing support for racism in like-minded states, South Carolina and Mississippi. Many more come out during the Sturgis Rally.
On Saturday, Feb. 11, at a high school basketball game in Newell, South Dakota, Newell High School (NHS) spectators attacked Tiospaye Topa School (TTS) high school student athletes with hateful racial epithets. After the final buzzer, adults from both sides of the gymnasium met in the middle of the floor and exchanged heated remarks. In a letter to the Tiospaye Topa School Board after the game, parent Shawn Traversie said, “Racism in sports against our children has been happening for far too long, enough is enough.” Numerous sources relate that racist verbal attacks against Native students have been common for many years at sporting events in Indian Country. [After racist verbal assault on student athletes, one parent says, “Enough is enough.”]
Newell is a horrible little town. Wendel Hiland was a Newell-area handyman and self-styled 'sovereign citizen' who faced 300 years in prison after he was arrested and charged in 2013 with 30 counts of abuse of a minor over the age of seven. He raped a minor, forced her into child marriage and has called Attorney General Marty Jackley "as crooked as they come." Hiland now lives in Moyie Springs, Idaho in the bowels of the American Redoubt.

But, it’s not just South Dakota — Natives in Montana suffer abuse from white attendees at basketball games, too.


Called it: Missouri River bridge daunting for engineers

In South Dakota infrastructure suffers to prop up the state's retirement system so, at a price of some $50 million+ (much of it federal dollars) the red moocher state chose an Iowa builder to replace the bridge across the Missouri River between Fort Pierre and the cesspool on the east side. Built in 1962, it was deemed in 2016 that the existing span is structurally deficient and functionally obsolete. 

In 2020 South Dakota was 4th in the US in the number of structurally deficient bridges at 17 percent and 10th in the percentage of structurally deficient bridge deck area.

In 2021 this blog said the bridge might open in 2023.
Dean VanDeWiele is a South Dakota Department of Transportation Pierre-area engineer. “You're just seeing the river water elevation, and so when you're going down you really had to watch the evaluations of your auger as your drilling because you never really know if you got a good bite of clay as you're pulling it up... Or did you not get any clay at all, did you go too deep, and it's very hard for the crane to lift back up?," said VanDeWiele. The Department of Transportation said the new bridge is anticipated to be open for traffic usage in the summer of 2024 with an anticipated completion date of the summer of 2025. [Bill Janklow's idea of public radio]
But here’s the dealio. In 2011 an earthquake that occurred ten miles under the clay sinkholes that developed in the Pierre Shale in Stanley County was large enough to be felt by humans who live there.

The Cretaceous shale between Oacoma and Rapid City or between Fort Pierre and Rapid City is a major obstacle and is one reason passenger rail across South Dakota failed but two east/west rail routes across South Dakota exclusively for freight is lunacy

So, if an existing track bed between Oacoma and Rapid City can be salvaged and made good enough for passenger rail it admits the geology is stable enough for a tar sands pipeline.


New Mexico's charter schools not immune to controversy

Blurring one line between church and state America's founders extolled the virtue of education as local schools were run both by christian sects and by local municipalities under the Tenth Amendment to the US Constitution. 

But it was not until 1867 and Reconstruction made public education a federal prerogative when President Andrew Johnson created a Department of Education as a proxy for race politics. Missionaries were hired then dispatched to the Deep South to provide schooling for whites and Negroes alike and Roman Catholics were enabled in the American West to assimilate Indigenous youth. Congress was incensed then demoted the Education Department after a year making it part of the Interior Department yet abuses continued.

Fast-forward to the Red Scare, Brown vs. Board of Education, President Eisenhower then to the 1960s when the Elementary and Secondary Education Act was passed to relieve some of the effects of poverty and segregation despite Section 604 which forbade federal control of education. 

The concept of a charter school began in 1971 as a progressive movement but especially in red states has since been hijacked by the far white wing of the Republican Party to advance the New Apostolic Reformation. Dominion theology supposes christians must control the seven “mountains” of government, education, media, arts and entertainment, religion, family, and business in order to establish a global christianic theocracy and prepare the world for Jesus’ return. Many catholic schools are in the Hillsdale bubble because the curriculum ignores the church’s role in the Native American Genocide.
The graduation rate for Native Americans nationally hovers at about 50 percent — compared to just over 80 percent for all U.S. students. But at Walatowa, the graduation rate is 91 percent — a figure that outranks the state average for Native American graduates (64 percent) and most other charter schools in New Mexico. All but five of the school’s 68 students are Native American. Students credit Walatowa’s small, welcoming community — which stresses the teaching of Native values, culture and the pueblo’s traditional language, Towa. Even non-Native students have found in the school an environment where they can thrive. [As Native schools struggle across U.S., grad rate soars at Jemez charter]
President Jimmy Carter created the modern Department of Education amidst the howls from Republicans who renounce the decision to integrate schools to the present day. Ronald Reagan moved to kill the Department of Education and when Republican Newt Gingrich was Speaker of the House he was all about getting rid of DoE, too. Then came No Child Left Behind and a DoE budget that exceeds $70 billion annually. 
Of nearly 100 charter schools in New Mexico, 67 are chartered by the state. Many are chartered through individual school districts, including Santa Fe Public Schools, but those are not included in the state audits. Last December, the League of Women Voters of New Mexico asked the Legislative Finance Committee to back a moratorium on opening any new charters, arguing that they are drawing money away from traditional public schools. [State Auditor calls out education department on charter schools, loss of $2.7M grant]
Today, after consultations with stakeholders New Mexico's Public Education Department hopes to provide instruction that is relevant to English language learners and Indigenous students alike by adding ethnic, cultural and identity curricula to the state's social studies standards by emphasizing tribal sovereignty, social justice and sustainable futures.
Santa Fe could be home to two new state-chartered schools in the next few years — one establishing New Mexico’s fourth Explore Academy and the other offering students a Montessori experience. The most recent addition is Thrive Community School, which opened in August at a campus on Old Santa Fe Trail. It serves more than 100 kids in kindergarten to third grade this year and expects to expand to become a K-8 with an enrollment capped at 120. The eight charter schools in and around the city serve a total of about 3,800 students, including more than 2,000 from Santa Fe. If the proposed new charters are approved, they could draw 1,500 students away from Santa Fe Public Schools — a district that, like most in the state, is already shrinking. [Two new charter schools may be coming to Santa Fe]
The New Mexico Public Education Commission could revoke the 2012 charter of La Tierra Montessori School of the Arts and Sciences in Ohkay Owingeh after months of debating how to handle the school because numerous incidents led to a law enforcement response. The school consists of a lower elementary that instructs first through third graders and an upper elementary that educates fourth through sixth graders.
Sponsored by Senator Mimi Stewart (D – Bernalillo) and Representative Tara L. Lujan (D – Santa Fe), Senate Bill 422 would have stopped new charter schools from opening in school districts where 10 percent of the district’s students are enrolled in charters. One supporter was Superintendent of Santa Fe Public Schools Hilario “Larry” Chavez. He expressed concern that charter schools are limiting the abilities of public schools to do their jobs, with 25 percent of the student population in Santa Fe attending charters, and more attending private schools. [Bill to limit charter schools tabled]
Neighbor Lynn was an on and off member of the National Education Association (NEA) while she taught for twenty six years — twenty of those at New Mexico's oldest charter school. She told an interested party that what she liked about it was that staff and families made their own decisions and didn’t have to follow the whims of the Santa Fe Public School administration. But it wasn't always easy to get the community involved so she believes charter schools make the most sense when they have a specific purpose — like those devoted to the arts or to science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) have done.


Arizona next to erase racist's name from mountain peak

In 2014 two national forests based in Montana, one named for the Swiss guy who helped convince President Thomas Jefferson to use an executive order to buy land from a country that didn’t even own it and one named for a war criminal were merged into a single administrative unit. 

In 2015 Senator Lisa Murkowski and the US Park Service did what Alaskans asked of Congress and urged the body to approve a name change for North America's highest peak. That same year in the occupied Black Hills of South Dakota descendants of European colonizers became apoplectic over the proposal to restore that state's highest point to its Lakota name, Hinhan Kaga or A Making of Owls but settled on Black Elk Peak instead. As a result of ingesting psychoactive fungi Heȟáka Sápa or Nicholas Black Elk rejected catholicism and returned to Lakota ways after he realized the Roman Church was committing crimes against his people. 

With the Oglala Lakota Nation as an interested party Chief Arvol Looking Horse submitted a request to the US Board on Geographic Names saying the words “Devils Tower” are a malapropism but Wyoming's Republican congressional delegation is resisting that name change with every far white wing dollar they can raise. Local opposition has been able to obstruct name changes so far and the Wyoming Board on Geographic Names is notoriously slow in removing offensive designations from geographical features.

California has finally changed the name of its famous Squaw Valley Ski Resort to Palisades Tahoe. Colorado is renaming Chinaman Gulch, Negro Creek, Negro Mesa, Negro Basin, Negro Draw and Squaw Mountain but has deferred renaming a mountain bearing the moniker of a territorial governor with a role in the Sand Creek Massacre

The Hayden Valley in Yellowstone National Park memorializes Ferdinand V. Hayden who advocated for the extermination of Indigenous people and Mount Doane is named for Lieutenant Gustavus Doane who led a massacre of the Piikani, part of the Blackfoot Confederacy. 
A group of Native American students is urging Flagstaff city officials to rename one of the San Francisco Peaks due to its namesakes’ history of racism. The Peaks are sacred to numerous tribal nations. Agassiz Peak is currently named after 19-century Swiss-American scientist Louis Agassiz. The biologist was a known proponent of polygenism, a theory used to legitimize belief in white superiority. Makaius Marks, who is Diné, is part of a group of students calling for the peak to be renamed to its traditional Hopi name, Öo'mawki. [Group pushes for renaming of San Francisco peak linked to racist history]
Agassiz' name appears on several geographical features in North America including a glacial lake, mountains in Arizona, California, Utah, Massachusetts, New Hampshire and glaciers in Montana and Alaska. 

ip image: Odakota Mountain is a little higher than its listed 7205 feet.


Minnesota being dragged kicking and screaming into merger with tainted South Dakota hospital

Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison's office is investigating the proposed merger of an ailing medical giant with the namesake of South Dakota’s richest man, Denny Sanford — the subject of a probe for possession of child pornography. 

AG Ellison has a long history of supporting unions and worker rights. Sanford is a St. Paul native and graduate of the University of Minnesota.
Former Gov. Mark Dayton bluntly told a state Senate committee what he believed was at stake if the Sanford Health and Fairview Health Services controlled the University of Minnesota’s medical facilities after the two health care companies merged. Former Gov. Tim Pawlenty, a Republican, echoed his Democratic successor. Ellison said during testimony Tuesday that his office’s investigation into the proposed merger is still ongoing. But confirmed they have moved into a “new phase” of the investigation, and are demanding sworn statements from certain individuals as part of his office’s investigative authority. Stakeholders from the Minnesota Nurses Association, the MN AFL-CIO and the MN Farmers Union at the hearing all spoke in opposition to the merger. [Dayton calls Sanford, Fairview merger a 'betrayal’ unless U of M control stays in state]
In 2016 then-Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton toured a South Dakota mining disaster calling it "a textbook example of how not to do it." 

Denny Sanford made a fortune in usury bilking borrowers who could least afford financing. His lawyer, Marty Jackley is a Republican who admitted to illegal content on at least one of Sanford’s devices but brushed aside the filthy images as incidents of hacking. Jackley on the rebound as South Dakota’s top fop and the US Department of Justice has declined comment on whether a federal grand jury has convened or if an indictment of Sanford is imminent.


More Montana counties join Big Sky Rail plan

With help from Democratic Senator Jon Tester Treasure County is the latest to join the Big Sky Rail Authority as twenty Montana counties and the Confederated Salish and Kootenai, Northern Cheyenne and Apsáalooke Nations bring the former North Coast Hiawatha to life. 

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. Sweetgrass, Deer Lodge, Beaverhead and Madison Counties have yet to join the compact that would restore passenger rail across southern Montana from North Dakota to Idaho and include some 47 stops in seven states.
“In two years, we’ve become the largest transportation district in the state and the demographics of the map speak for itself,” said Missoula County commissioner Dave Strohmaier, who currently chairs the rail authority. “What this initiative has shown again and again is that we can still agree on a few things in Montana and the United States, and the importance of passenger rail is among them.” [Missoula Current]
It's not in President Biden's rail plan but if someday Amtrak connects the Southwest Chief at Pueblo or Trinidad, Colorado to the Empire Builder at Shelby, Montana through Denver and Cheyenne there might be a depot at Edgemont, South Dakota. Cheyenne, Wyoming is on board with Front Range passenger rail and All Aboard Arizona says passenger rail between Phoenix and Tucson is closer than ever, too.
Legislative Bill 44, proposed by State Sen. George Dungan of Lincoln, would have Nebraska rejoin the Midwest Interstate Passenger Rail Commission, a coalition of states in the region working toward a modern rail system. [Nebraska Examiner]
ip photo: the Southwest Chief chugs toward Trinidad.


Tester: TriCare not doing enough for Montana's warriors

Democratic Montana Senator Jon Tester has been a veterans advocate since before he even went to Congress 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. 

Recall former Montana Sen. Max Baucus threw President Barack Obama's pick for Health and Human Services Secretary, former Senate Majority Leader and fellow Democrat Tom Daschle, under the bus during a pre-confirmation quarrel in 2009. Daschle was widely expected to push Congress toward a Medicaid-for-all health care plan in the weeks before Big Pharma-backed Baucus soundly rejected single-payer medical insurance and guided the passing of what would become the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. 

During a 2017 bipartisan hearing of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee Sen. Tester said Congress should take a “solid look” at a single-payer health care system. Tester, who has been listening to various options including some intense lobbying from this blog, asked the panel of experts how to finance the health care system while controlling the costs.
“I’ve heard from far too many Montanans that TriCare isn’t working for them, and I’m concerned about the alarming number of issues with the program,” Tester said in a news release in advance of the roundtable in Great Falls. TriCare is the health care program offered by the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) to military personnel, retired veterans, and their dependents. “It’s not an issue of we’ve got too many providers, it’s an issue of we don’t have enough,” Tester responded. “We’ve got 17 veterans a day as of the last census that are committing suicide, and Montana’s suicide rate is the highest in the nation. There’s not enough people out there to take care of the problem, so that when somebody is in crisis, they have no help. We don’t have enough providers that are available to get on board and when they do, they’re libel [sic] not to work because it takes 45 to 60 days or longer to get paid. This is insane.” [Tester discusses 'alarming number of issues' with military healthcare]
Montana holds first place in 2023 but South Dakota is again the second most lucrative state to practice medicine thanks to its medical industry triopoly.

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 VHA together then offering Medicaid for all by increasing the estate tax, raising taxes on tobacco and adopting a carbon tax.


Red states still suck for women

In 2022, of the 25 best states for women 22 of them were blue according to rankings from WalletHub. My home state of South Dakota held 51st place for the number of women who own businesses, 49th in percentage of women who voted in 2020 but tied for 1st with North Dakota for lowest unemployment among women. New Mexico was tied with Alaska for a high femicide rate, 48th for female high school graduation and nearly the highest percentage of women living in poverty. The bottom 8 states for women's well-being were red.

This year 20 of the 25 best states for women are blue but 17 of the worse states for women are red. North and South Dakota are still tied for first place in rates of employed women while New Mexico is still too high in rates of women living in poverty. South Dakota is 50th in women-owned businesses and 41st in women's health care and safety. 

Read it all here.


California will ship logs to Wyoming rail siding

During remarks to the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee in 2021, US Forest Service Chief Randy Moore outlined a plan to ship logs from as far away as California to sawmills owned by Hulett, Wyoming's Neiman Enterprises. 

One of the mills is in Spearditch, South Dakota that Jim Neiman threatened to close after increases in sales of timber were deprioritized in the Black Hills National Forest’s revised plan. Republican donor Neiman waited until Donald Trump was forced from the White House then shuttered his sawmill in Hill City, South Dakota and blamed the Forest Service. The operation in Hulett employs a third of that community’s population.

According to former timber cruiser, Dave Mertz there haven’t been any litigators to sue the Forest Service allowing Republicans to infiltrate management of the BHNF. The Biden administration has been slow to restore the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) rules Earth hating Republicans like South Dakota and Wyoming's congressional delegation want to eliminate. Senators John Thune and John Barrasso introduced the Save Jim Neiman's Ass Act Black Hills Forest Protection and Jobs Preservation Act of 2022 but it died in committee. 

Nevertheless, Jim Neiman will enjoy the fruits of socialism as Republicans found a way to funnel taxpayer dollars to the Black Hills timber mogul under a partnership between the US Forest Service and the National Wild Turkey Federation.

In 2020 Neiman bought Interfor Corporation’s specialty sawmill in the Klamath County town of Gilchrist, Oregon near where the logs will be loaded. Neiman owns the Klamath Northern Railway which connects to the Union Pacific that has a siding in Upton, Wyoming. To minimize the movement of insects and diseases the 33 and 16.5 foot fire salvage ponderosa pine logs will be peeled and shipped to Upton then trucked to Neiman’s mill. Upton was part of my Sysco territory before I left in 1992.
The process of moving timber by railcar in previous years was viewed as an outdated method, as it was considered unprofitable for companies seeking to create forest products. However, considering the immense ecological value (i.e., wildfire risk reduction, carbon optimization, watershed health, wildlife habitat, etc.), the process has the potential to set the precedent for getting fuels out of the forest and transformed into carbon-storing forest products. [NWTF, USDA Begin Restoration, Timber Transit as part of Master Stewardship Agreement]
One needs to look no further than the BHNF for how politics has completely altered a landscape but there are plenty other public lands examples that illustrate the red state, blue state divide. The BHNF is in Region 2, based in Colorado but managers are struggling to hire personnel because a Republican governor is driving young people from South Dakota. 

Neiman purchased Montrose Forest Products in Colorado in 2012 so in 2018 after the Trump Organization gutted NEPA Neiman shipped twelve loads of timber from the San Juan National Forest in Colorado to mills in South Dakota. Neiman wants to log 20 million board feet of ponderosa pine per year in Colorado for the next 20 years. Knot-free old growth ponderosa pine is coveted by door and window manufacturers like Pella, Marvin and Andersen.
“We’re honored to be a partner with the USFS and NWTF on this pilot project,” said Jim Neiman, President of Neiman. “Collectively we’re helping to create resilient forests and stable economies around rural and underserved communities across the nation.” [press release, Black Hills National Forest]
It’s entirely likely Neiman refuses to pay competitive wages but chooses to blame others for worker shortages instead. There are far, far better life choices than working in a sawmill for ten years let alone living in states like Wyoming and South Dakota where workers are commodities. Neiman bought mills in blue states Colorado and Oregon that expanded Medicaid, so go figure.

In a related story, Colorado could plug abandoned oil and gas wells with biochar.


Despite major flooding endangered sturgeon using Yellowstone diversion

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. 

Below the Missouri River dams pallid sturgeon are showing signs of recovery but above?
Test flows target the demographic unit of pallid sturgeon found in west-central Montana on the UMR between Fort Peck Dam and Lake Sakakawea and on the lower Yellowstone River. Fort Peck Dam, located at Missouri River Mile (RM) 1772, limits upstream migration of adult pallid sturgeon while the Lake Sakakawea headwaters (approximately RM 1500) limit downstream dispersal of larval pallid sturgeon. The effects of implementing test flows were evaluated from Fort Peck Reservoir downstream to Gavins Point Dam on the South Dakota/Nebraska border at RM 811. Hydrological modeling for the alternatives was performed on the entire Missouri River system to the Mississippi River confluence. Because no meaningful hydrological differences between any alternative and the No Action Alternative were evident downstream from Gavins Point Dam, human considerations analyses were limited to areas upstream of this point. This encompasses a sequence of river and reservoir segments that includes Fort Peck Dam and Reservoir, Garrison Dam and Lake Sakakawea, Oahe Dam and Lake, Big Bend Dam and Lake Sharpe, Fort Randall Dam and Lake Francis Case, and Gavins Point Dam and Lewis & Clark Lake. [Fort Peck Dam Test Release Final Environmental Impact Statement September 2021]
Endangered pallid sturgeon, paddlefish, catfish and most other aquatic organisms cope with lethal levels of mercury throughout the South Dakota portion of the Missouri River so as those species are extirpated or even go extinct zebra mussels will colonize the system. Lewis and Clark Lake is at least thirty percent full of toxic sediment but that impoundment and Lake Sharpe can’t spend money fast enough to reverse the infestation of the imported bivalves in hydroelectric equipment and water courses.
The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announces the completion of the Lower Yellowstone fish bypass channel project near Glendive, Montana –water is flowing and the channel navigable. The success of this, three-year, $44 million construction project was due in part to the joint coordination efforts and contributions of intergovernmental organization resources to help improve the passage structure for the endangered pallid sturgeon and other native species around this intake diversion dam. In 1990, pallid sturgeons were listed as endangered by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service under the Endangered Species Act. USACE, the Wildlife Service, and Reclamation have been working in partnership to determine the effects of the Lower Yellowstone Project on the species. Two primary issues were identified, entrainment into the Lower Yellowstone main canal and lack of passage success over Intake Diversion Dam. [Omaha Division, US Army Corps of Engineers]
Spring runoff allows pallid sturgeon into Yellowstone tributaries like the Powder and Tongue Rivers to spawn but the Corps canceled the Spring Pulse below Lewis and Clark Lake in 2022 due to inadequate runoff into the Missouri River and is likely to do the same this year as levels are below average again.
The Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks department's Fish and Wildlife Commission has banned the technique of snagging to catch paddlefish at the new intake fish bypass channel on the Yellowstone River near Glendive. The purpose is "to improve upstream and downstream fish passage for pallid sturgeon and other native species, including paddlefish, while maintaining water diversions into the lower Yellowstone project main canal," a FWP press release states. [Sidney Herald]
ip photo: the Corps announces its presence near the headwaters of the Boulder River in Jefferson County, Montana.