Montana county leaves BSPRA but loves air service subsidies

In a poke at Senator Jon Tester (D-MT) the three Republicans on the Prairie County Commission have voted to withdraw from the Big Sky Passenger Rail Authority citing too much competition for federal subsidies with essential air service in nearby Glasgow, Glendive, Havre, Sidney, and Wolf Point, Montana. 

Calling the potential for passenger rail service "a huge asset" in 2020 Broadwater, Butte-Silver Bow, Dawson, Gallatin, Granite, Jefferson, Missoula, Park, Powell, Prairie, Sanders and Wibaux counties became founding BSPRA member counties. 

Sen. Tester is all aboard for restoring the North Coast Hiawatha and finding funding for the next phase of the project through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill while his Small Community Air Service Enhancement Act boosts airport improvements in eastern Montana counties.

Treasure County was the latest to join the BSPRA as nineteen Montana counties, 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.

The Authority hopes to restore passenger rail across southern Montana from North Dakota to Idaho and include some 47 stops in seven states. 

The FRA and BSPRA will hold a meeting in Missoula on 7 June

Prairie County Commissioner Dennis Teske lost to Republican former US Representative Denny Rehberg in the 2012 US Senate primary by a huge margin. Today, Rehberg is one of eight Earth haters running for the eastern Montana US House seat vacated by Trump freak, Matt Rosendale.

Learn more at the Terry Tribune.


Pe'Sla meeting pits sovereign nations against state government

It’s not really South nor even really Dakota.

Nearly twenty years ago Congress passed the Tribal Forest Protection Act when this columnist was still living in the Black Hills. It authorized tribal nations to enter agreements with the Departments of Interior and Agriculture to protect public resources bordering or adjacent to reservations and trust lands that have biological, archaeological, historical, or cultural connections. 

So in 2010 Democratic former US Senator Tim Johnson introduced the Tony Dean Cheyenne River Valley Conservation Act that would have created a 48,000 acre wilderness in the nearly 600,000 acre Buffalo Gap National Grassland adjacent to the Oglala Lakota Nation. 

Then in 2012 the Sicangu Lakota Oyate or Rosebud Sioux Tribe raised some $10 million combined with contributions from the other members of the Oceti Sakowin the People of the Seven Council Fires purchased Pe'Sla, the property formerly called Reynold's Prairie by the descendants of white settlers.

In 2014 the Nations acquired the final 437 acres of the Heart of Everything That Is and in 2015 the Oyates began moving bison to the meadow with hopes to add many more after winning federal trust status but in 2020 the herd of sixty five was removed after whining from welfare ranchers who lease Forest Service land for domestic cattle grazing at pennies per head.

In 2023 $12 million was designated under the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law to support co-stewardship under the TFPA and complete projects in mostly western states including some $700,000 for efforts blending Indigenous knowledge on the Black Hills National Forest and $100,000 to restore degraded habitats on the Fort Pierre National Grassland. The Buffalo Gap and Fort Pierre National Grasslands in South Dakota are managed from Nebraska. The Grand River National Grassland in northwestern South Dakota is managed from Bismarck, North Dakota.

Proving irony is dead Kristi Noem’s political campaign has called for an audit of tribal communities from a state that’s an ethics black hole and where Republicans routinely raid the Future Fund while the governor peddles favors from South Dakota's executive branch like it was a $60 bible. 

Mrs. Noem photobombed Friday's quarterly meeting at the Pe'Sla Sacred Sites where she reliably continued to complain about co-stewardship with Tribal governments even as the Black Hills National Forest faces habitat degradation fraught with lead contamination from unregulated shooting plus off-highway vehicles, grazing, mining and logging. 

Preservation is a weak spot in the Republican agenda and if enough people believe forest and rangeland resilience is a bankable position the South Dakota Democratic Party needs to exploit it by fielding candidates who can convince voters to reject politicians like John Thune, Kristi Noem, Mike Rounds and Dusty Johnson who work for the grazing, mining and logging profiteers at the expense of public lands. 


Wildfire salvage driving lumber glut

Statistic: Monthly price of lumber in the United States from January 2016 to February 2024 (in U.S. dollars per thousand board feet) | Statista

Fire managers have climate change guns to their heads so it’s usually damned if you do and damned if you don’t conduct prescriptive burns but it’s probably a straight line from the previous administration’s Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue and crashes in morale within the US Forest Service to current conditions on the Santa Fe National Forest.
Back in graduate school in the late 70s my major Prof Jim Peek, used to talk about proximate and ultimate causes. The proximate cause of the Calf Canyon, Hermits Peak fires was ignitions by the Forest Service. The ultimate cause was a century of fire suppression, that followed a cessation of Native American burning in the 1800s. In essence the Forest Service is put in the position of being the the bomb squad. When detonating the bomb does not go right and damage happens there are people who point fingers. The obvious thing is these horrible fires would happen sooner or later, because all of the prerequisites (ultimate causes) are there. We need to support prescribed fire knowing it won’t always go as planned, because fire is inevitable. [John Marshall, blog comment]
Missoula, Montana sits in a dry lake bed surrounded by mountains so when this scribe lived there in the late 1970s and early 80s and the pulp mill in Frenchtown was operating the valley would fill with stinky water vapor and wood smoke creating a toxic ice fog during winter months. Now, sawmills in Montana that rely on ponderosa pine are closing in part because of low lumber prices driven by salvage sales after record wildfire seasons caused by human influences on global climate patterns.
“It’s not just the facilities and jobs that are impacted at those facilities,” said Todd Morgan, director of the University of Montana’s Forest Industry Research Program. Oregon-based Roseburg Forest Products cited challenges competing with more modern plants with the 1969 building’s aging manufacturing platform as the main reason for closing the Missoula facility. For Pyramid Mountain Lumber, Missoula County’s last remaining sawmill, sawn timber prices are back down to where they were before the COVID-19 pandemic, but not terrible, Todd Johnson, president and general manager, told Montana Free Press. Montana still has milling capacity, but problems in other Western states illustrate reviving lumber infrastructure is more difficult than maintaining it, Morgan said. For example, Arizona and New Mexico are struggling financially to complete fire hazard treatments with a shrunken wood products industry, he said. [Missoula-area wood industry closures mean ripple effects for workers, tax base, forest management]
Smurfit-Stone declared bankruptcy in 2009, closed the mill in 2010 and sold it for scrap in 2011 leaving taxpayers a US Environmental Protection Agency Superfund mess polluted with PCBs and dioxins that make the Clark Fork River America's fifth most endangered waterway in 2023.
Over a human lifespan, the modeled impacts of the suppression bias exceed those from fuel accumulation or climate change alone, suggesting that suppression may exert a significant and underappreciated influence on patterns of fire globally. Managing wildfires to safely burn under low and moderate conditions is thus a critical tool to address the growing wildfire crisis. [Fire suppression makes wildfires more severe and accentuates impacts of climate change and fuel accumulation]
Koch Industries owns Georgia-Pacific LLC, one of the largest forest products ravagers in the United States. 

Interfor is another huge timber multi-national that sold a sawmill to Neiman Enterprises now shipping salvage logs to Wyoming.


Want to curtail Chinese influence in the Caribbean? Increase trade with Cuba

Fulgencio Batista y Zaldívar was a criminal propped up by the Dulles brothers to rule Cuba until Fidel Castro led a socialist revolution there in 1959. When Castro took the reins he dissolved the previous constitution with all its treaties, wrote a new manual and ruled by decree. Yes, those same Dulles brothers conspired to murder President John F. Kennedy. 

Cuba is among the Earth's most literate countries while the United States surfs the middle. President Jimmy Carter tried to save the world by embracing Cuba but few Americans cared. Recall that in 2015 Republican South Dakota Secretary of Agriculture Lucas Lentsch ranted about the challenges facing agriculture at a conference in Deadwood and talked about getting genetically engineered food-like substances into Cuba.

In 2020 President-elect Joe Biden said he wanted to see trade relations loosened and improved between the United States and Cuba and South Dakota Farmers Union President Doug Sombke was also pleased to see a Democratic administration focusing on that island nation as a possible trading partner. In 2021 Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and others moved to end the cruel embargo against Cuba.

Today, South Dakota's current Republican governor has taken steps to bar Cuban ownership of agricultural land in that state. But with indicted Cuban-American Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ) likely going away his threatened filibuster of any bill to repeal the travel ban to Cuba will go away with him. 

The US learned of a Chinese espionage operation in Cuba in 2023.
More than 60 years after the embargo took effect, the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture led a trade mission in February to the island country south of the Florida Keys to identify and address trade barriers for U.S. ag products. The U.S. exported $372 million worth of goods to Cuba and imported $6 million worth in 2022. Cubans already buy a lot of the chicken from the U.S., mostly quarter legs. [Cuban-U.S. trade relationship hints of change]
After the US trade delegation met with Cuban officials a special representative from China visited the island earlier this month.

A record cicada outbreak is expected this year so harvest those insects then export them to Cuba where farmers can feed them to chickens and hogs.

This blog wants Cuba to be the 54th State.


Montana Democrat seeking redemption for Oath Keeper stain

Just weeks before Donald Trump led an attempted autogolpe Stewart Rhodes was inciting the Oath Keepers to civil war. Rhodes formed the white supremacist militia in 2009 after Barack Obama was elected POTUS but is now serving an 18-year prison sentence for seditious conspiracy for his role in Trump's insurrection.
The eldest son of one of America's most infamous seditionists is building a new life since breaking free from his father's control — juggling work, college classes and volunteer firefighting. And Dakota Adams has tossed one more ball in the air this year: a Democratic campaign for Montana's Legislature. Adams said Rhodes' involvement in the riot didn't surprise him and that Jan. 6 contributed to his decision to run for office. Adams feels he might be able to sway far-right voters as Democrats try to cut into the GOP supermajority in the Legislature. [Oath Keepers' son emerges from traumatic childhood to tell his own story in a long shot election bid]
Northwest Montana is smack dab in the middle of the American Redoubt

Learn more at NPR.


Violence looming in Wyoming as BLM cleans up decades of oil and gas messes

It’s impossible to imagine a more committed insurrectionist than the Republican Party’s presumptive presidential nominee who gleefully incites his disciples to render a bloodbath on his political enemies.

Amy Edmonds is a Burke, South Dakota girl who attended the University of Wyoming and served in that state's legislature from 2007 to 2013 then became communications director for US Representative Liz Cheney.
In part, nationalized factions have come into our Legislature and enthroned bitter tribalism that continues to grow and fester year after year. With the creation of the Wyoming Freedom Caucus several years ago, we see Congress’ Freedom Caucus begin their new mission to take their angry little show on the road across the country. [The rancor in the Legislature is hurting Wyoming]
Imperiled by the likes of bellicose seditionist Ammon Bundy and Devils Tower-area welfare rancher Chip Neiman (Earth hater-Hulett) public lands employees are fearing for their lives as the Bureau of Land Management drafts its revised plan for 3.6 million acres in southwest Wyoming. Ginned-up belligerents in the so-called "Freedom Caucus" are whining that 8,576 acres or about .02% of the proposed protection area would be locked out to livestock grazing where the current permittee hasn't run cattle for some 27 years. 

BLM-Wyoming Rock Springs Field Office manager Kimberlee Foster said her staffers are being subjected to anti-government threats and menacing remarks some of which appeared in the Cowboy State Daily, a mouthpiece of the far white wing of the Republican Party. Trump adherent, Harriet Hageman, Wyoming's lone US House member is fanning the wildfire and calling for "wiping out" the deep state by targeting federal workers.
“In typical fashion,” Hageman said Wednesday, “the federal government has chosen the very alternative that has the most community opposition and would do the most damage.” The BLM proposed a conservation alternative over a range of other options. [Hageman bill would block BLM’s Rock Springs ‘illegal land grab’ plan]


Truth is Rodriguez can't handle the competition

Back in 2016 Duke Rodriguez was flying high when New Mexico's Big Dope announced a partnership with the Las Vegas Paiute tribe to build a large growing facility and two dispensaries on tribal land in Nevada. 

Then again in 2017 as his Ultra Health crossed a threshold providing $1.1 million in therapeutic cannabis to some of the state's 47,000 patients with just eight dispensaries he gushed over New Mexico as forward looking. That same year Israel-based Panaxia Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd. and Ultra Health opened a facility in Bernalillo to manufacture cannabis oil, oral tablets, suppositories, pastilles, transdermal patches and topical creams. The collaboration came on the heels of a University of New Mexico resolution demanding the school divest from corporations that profit from human rights violations both in Palestine and at the US-Mexico border. It was later rescinded. 

Then-Speaker of the New Mexico House Brian Egolf not only supported legalization for all adults he served as legal counsel for the state's therapeutic cannabis leader, Ultra Health. Santa Fe's Mayor Alan Webber lobbied the New Mexico Legislature intensively to propel legalization. And in 2018, while calling itself "New Mexico's No. 1 cannabis company" Ultra Health broke ground in Clayton near the borders with Texas and Oklahoma. Big Dope Ultra had nine dispensaries in New Mexico with plans to at least double that in the coming year.

And, in reality competition is exactly what the governor and the legislature expected to happen in New Mexico's cannabis industry. Now retailers are offering penny pre-rolls or even free grams with purchases but nearly a hundred New Mexico cannabis vendors signed a letter to Regulation and Licensing Superintendent Linda Trujillo and Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham to slow the issuance of new licenses which Rodriguez chose not to sign.

Budtenders in the border town of Sunland Park are laughing all the way to the bank as millions in sales to Texans have boosted revenues for public safety. And today with over a $billion in sales, 40+ cannabis dispensaries in Santa Fe alone and some 1050 in New Mexico the competition has become a roaring donnybrook but Duke's whining is at full throat.
My preference for legal cannabis was for craft growers to also be marketers like vineyards and brewers subject to state inspections and that the revenue debate should have been done in committee in concert with tribal officials interested in forging compacts.
When I saw Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s March 5 press release proclaiming “Cannabis in New Mexico officially a billion-dollar industry” and referring to the “thriving business community” of cannabis licensees, I immediately thought of the movie “A Few Good Men.” Specifically, I thought of the classic exchange between Tom Cruise’s Navy JAG lawyer and Jack Nicholson’s Marine colonel. “I want the truth!” “You can’t handle the truth!” But I am like the character in “A Few Good Men.” I want the truth, and I think that all New Mexicans are entitled to it. [Duke Rodriguez]
The truth is readers will note the absence of solutions in Mr. Rodriquez' screed.

Santa Fe Craft Cannabis lured us in with $1 grams but sure as shit, underneath their display of top shelf flower is a row of black plastic containers in boxes emblazoned with the label, "Made in China." But they're hardly alone as Best Daze, PurLife, Sacred Garden, R.Greenleaf, Ultra Health and Southwest Cannabis all use plastic containers that are ineligible for refilling. 

Fruit of the Earth fell off the top of the 2023 Best of Santa Fe cannabis ratings except for a couple categories because other dispensaries were cheaper and had more strain variety but we have rounded back to them to avoid more plastic going into the municipal waste stream. Their 3.5 gram pouches are unbleached paper and while their 7 gram bags are bleached they're still superior to plastic.

So, Duke? Instead of complaining that your profits are being carved up because of competition maybe you should again become "New Mexico's No. 1 cannabis company" by being an innovation leader.

You’re selling a value-added product and not a commodity. Distribute your wares in hemp paper pouches. Encourage patients and patrons to refill their own containers at your dispensaries. Grow outside during the season and if stuck inside use electricity you generate yourself. Use harvested rainwater, recycled water and acequia exclusively. Offer employees profit sharing. And change the name of your company to something that more projects your commitment to New Mexico and to sustainability.


South Dakota still among the least innovative states

Source: WalletHub

Because of talent flight and brain drain in 2023 South Dakota was among the least innovative states, ranked 50th in venture capital spending per capita, 47th in R&D spending and 51st in share of tech companies. 

Today, the state is the 40th in overall innovation, 45th in innovation environment, 50th in share of technology companies and is still 47th in R&D spending per capita.

South Dakota is 24th of states where workers are fleeing their jobs, 35th in women's health and safety and 47th in road and bridge infrastructure.


SDGOP disintegrating over CO2 pipelines, vote tabulators

Industrial agriculture is ecocide and for those of us who love the Earth CO2 pipelines are subsidized corporate greenwashing but ironically many Republicans actually benefitting from reduced greenhouse emissions decry the sequestration of carbon as caving to the Green New Deal. 

But as the South Dakota Republican Party faces disintegration and braces for potential violence that could test Kristi Noem's riot boosting law during Veto Day in Pierre at least two issues threaten the Big Tent. Republicans are militantly divided over the utility of eminent domain for private enterprise for pipelines to move carbon dioxide but are just fine with employing it for the entrepreneurial transport of oil and gas.
The most controversial part of the new law is its perceived effect on the Public Utilities Commission and local setback laws. Prior state law allowed the commission to overrule counties’ pipeline setbacks, although the commission has so far declined to do that. [New group aims to refer carbon pipeline law to voters]
A private plane carrying Republican former Mesa, Colorado County Clerk Tina Peters and other Trump operatives took them to Sioux Falls, South Dakota to attend a rally held by Mike Lindell. Peters' trial on charges that she copied files of the county's election tabulations then shared them with Pillow Guy, Lindell has been pushed back to at least July. Peters is probably going to jail after compromising election results and forcing polling machines to be discarded and Lindell is bankrupt.
Most of the county officials who administer elections in South Dakota don’t consider hand counting to be an effective or efficient method of tabulating votes. That’s the result of a South Dakota News Watch survey that saw input from 49 of the state’s 66 county auditors. Auditors are elected officials who supervise county, state and federal elections as well as maintain financial records and other duties. The hand count debate comes as South Dakota is viewed as a proving ground by election reformists who claim that recent elections across the county were marred by hacking or fraud, allegations repeatedly rejected by courts of law as well as Democratic and Republican election leaders. Jim Eschenbaum, a semi-retired farmer from Miller who serves as a Hand County commissioner, thinks some of the election reformists have gone too far. [Hand counting vs. voting machines: Debate rages in South Dakota]
The grassland fire danger index will reach the high and very high categories Sunday for most of South Dakota and will reach the extreme category Monday for the northwestern part of the pathetic red state.

Based in Brookings, Pat Powers is a morbidly obese establishment SDGOP blogger whose kids all suffer from the effects of ag chemicals but is in the bag for Summit's pipeline boondoggle nevertheless. The irreversibly polluted Big Sioux River runs through Brookings County.

In a related story more than half of Iowa's streams and lakes are impaired because of runoff from industrial agriculture.


As Noem targets migrants South Dakota dairies face labor crises

In 2015 Republican former South Dakota US Representative Kristi Noem said her brothers used the H-2A program to bring in workers during planting and harvest season but complained that those using the program were targets of the US Department of Labor and Immigration and Customs Enforcement. 

In 2020 Mrs. Noem sued to have the checkpoints that protected Native Americans removed from the highways on reservations. But today there are no checks on executive power and the governor's cronies routinely raid the state's general fund. The state is second in addiction to gambling, East River dairies are polluting rivers in at least three states, teachers' salaries surf the bottom of the US and wage slavery is the state's biggest claim to fame. 

Diversity, equity, and inclusion: Trump state economies are in the toilet according to Creighton University's Ernie Goss but it's not about laziness, it's about Maria shrugged, if you will. Now, South Dakota's governor is going full blown Netanyahu and planning to wall off the north bank of the Rio Grande to keep America white and she has targeted Venezuelans in particular.
In fact, most livestock producers, such as ranches, dairies, and hog and poultry operations, are not legally allowed to use the program to meet year-round labor needs. Even if they were, 10 months isn’t long enough, Nicolien Hammink said. Training employees takes time, especially for higher priority positions like calf management. Nicolien and her husband Wim Hammink own and operate Hammink Dairy near Bruce, South Dakota, where they milk roughly 4,000 cows. Hamminks employ 40 people, most of whom are from Mexico, Nicaragua and Guatemala. She and her husband immigrated to South Dakota from the Netherlands in 1995. [Who’s going to milk them?]
Dutch land ownership in the US exceeds 4.85 million acres just second behind Canada.

So since Kristi Lynn Arnold Noem (KLAN) is militant about rejecting potential workers at the southern border wage slaves could make real social justice change by walking off their jobs then calling for a general strike and tourism boycott to bring Kristi to her senses, too.


Go Fund Me announced

After consulting with the Horse Shelter and an equine veterinarian Donnamarie and Larry have decided that the best way to protect ten free-roaming horses is to keep them in their care. Forage is scarce and the only water available is from wells on their property so the four mares that will foal very soon will be safe, well cared for and as wild as possible. 

About fifteen acres is fenced with horse-safe wire but the gate is always open so the herd can come and go as they please. The couple has been buying hay and so far that is working but the three stallions need to be gelded and that is expensive so we're asking you to pony up to help defray the cost. 


Black Hills forest experts rebuke Republicans after Spearditch roundtable

After a century of fire suppression, a decades-long moratorium on prescribed burns, a lack of environmental litigators and GOP retrenchment the Black Hills National Forest has been broken for decades. The collapse of the Black Hills hydrologic region was forecast in 2002 even as the mountain pine beetle raced to save Paha Sapa water supplies.

So, 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.

In June, 2023 an interested party asked former acting Black Hills National Forest Supervisor Jim Zornes to comment on an article appearing in South Dakota Searchlight about the heinous state of affairs on the Forest then Seth Tupper followed up on that piece with another describing the unheard of turnover of supervisors so an interested party asked Dave Mertz to comment on it.

Mertz is a retired natural resource officer for the BHNF who attended a roundtable discussion in Spearditch hosted by South Dakota's lone US Representative Dusty Johnson when he sicced two fellow Republican congress members on Regional Forester Frank Beum and BHNF Supervisor Shawn Cochran. Cochrane was the sixth different leader in 2023 alone and 11th in the past seven years.
After introductions, the panel quickly turned to grilling the two Forest Service officials. It appeared that they were there to browbeat the Forest Service. Johnson participated in these tactics as well. Much of the hour and a half revolved around blaming the Forest Service for not selling more timber and for being ineffective. Repeatedly, panelists stated what the timber industry needs. Never was there any concern for what level of timber harvesting the forest needs. The two Forest Service participants showed up in good faith only to be interrogated. What was the point of all this other than some people enjoying seeing the Forest Service get beat up? No solutions were found that I could tell. [Dave Mertz, We know what the timber industry needs, but what can the Black Hills provide?]
This blogger forwarded Mertz's column to The Smokey Wire where Zornes and Mertz continue the discussion.
But, can you imagine, the FS paying to ship logs, by rail, from California to South Dakota? Remember a few years ago when the old BCAP (Biomass Crop Assistance Program) couldn’t find enough money to even be relevant? This is playing out in real time, and it is absolutely shocking on how The Hills are being mined for volume…. BHNF was cutting more than growth plus mortality, losing suitable and “standard” component acres, and those cumulative effects finally came home to roost! This should have been nipped in the bud in 2016, but the politics, industry tantrums and Agency egos just carried too much weight! And now, we have a mess…..[Jim Zornes]
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 so Neiman bought mills in blue states Colorado and Oregon that expanded Medicaid. Earth hating US Senators John Thune and John Barrasso introduced the Save Jim Neiman's Ass Black Hills Forest Protection and Jobs Preservation Act of 2022 but it died in committee. 
It’s some crazy stuff going on here Jim! When you were here, things were just borderline crazy, but it’s full One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest now! It’s almost impossible to find out how much the rail thing is costing taxpayers but it’s likely an outrageous amount. These are supposedly salvage logs, they can’t be worth much. The transport must be costing several times what the logs are worth. It’s hard to believe our politicians can solve big problems when they are devoid of objectivity. [Their] answer is always just get a bigger hammer. It is putting band aids over band aids. They parrot the story that if a mill closes, the Black Hills will burn to the ground. This is not true, other mills will remain. The real fire risk here is the hundreds of thousands of acres of doghair stands of young trees. Not the sawtimber. But sawmills don’t make money on doghair. And so it goes…. With the current state of the forest, there are fewer and fewer options of any kind to properly manage it. [Dave Mertz]
Nevertheless, Republican welfare ranchers ginned up by the likes of South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem, Wyoming's US Representative Harriet Hageman, disgraced former Otero County Commissioner Couy Griffin, American Stewards of Liberty rabble-rouser Margaret Byfield and others are plotting violence against public land managers in the West.

Jim Furnish was deputy chief of the US Forest Service from 1999 to 2002. He believes Neiman will close the sawmill in Spearditch, too.

Historian Paul Horsted, the Norbeck Society, People for Sustainable Logging in the Black Hills and the Black Hills Environmental Coalition have joined the condemnation of Rep. Johnson's attack on the Forest Service.

South Dakota’s junior Republican US Senator has introduced likely doomed legislation in Congress that would increase bureaucracy and open the BHNF to the wholesale pillage of any surviving saw timber.


Budget released but below average upper Missouri basin snowpack testing Corps, endangered species

The US Army Corps of Engineers counts almost 90,000 dams in its database and on the western side of the Continental Divide the Snake River through Idaho, Oregon and Washington that was dammed to deny Indigenous salmon fishing is now the 4th most endangered as drought seizes the region.
Following historic progress made under the President’s leadership—with over 14 million jobs added since the President took office and inflation down two-thirds from its peak—the Budget protects and builds on this progress with proposals for responsible, pro-growth investments in America and the American people. Overall, the President's Budget for FY 2025 for the Army Civil Works program reflects the Administration's priorities to strengthen the supply chain and grow the nation's economy, decrease climate risk for communities and increase ecosystem resilience to climate change based on the best available science, and promote environmental justice in underserved and overburdened communities and Tribal Nations in line with the Justice40 initiative and creating good paying jobs that provide the free and fair chance to join a union and collectively bargain. The FY 2025 Budget investments will work to confront climate change by reducing flood risk and restoring ecosystems. The Corps is working to integrate climate preparedness and climate resilience planning in all of its activities, such as by helping communities reduce their potential vulnerabilities to the effects of climate change and variability. [Statement by Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works on the President’s Fiscal Year 2025 Budget]
On the eastern slope Spring runoff allows pallid sturgeon in 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.

This Spring a dry winter and low mountain snowpacks are driving the Corps to release storage in the Missouri River mainstem dams hoping to prop up the navigation season at the risk of providing less water for hydroelectric generation.
The 2024 calendar year runoff forecast above Sioux City is 17.0 MAF, 66% of average. The runoff forecast is based on current soil moisture conditions, plains snowpack, mountain snowpack, and long-term precipitation and temperature outlooks. Beginning in mid-March, releases from Gavins Point Dam will be adjusted to provide flow support for Missouri River navigation. Navigation flow support for the Missouri River is expected to be at 500 cubic feet-per-second below full service for the first half of the 2024 season, which begins April 1 at the mouth of the river near St. Louis, Missouri. The six mainstem power plants generated 467 million kWh of electricity in February. Typical energy generation for February is 618 million kWh. Forecast generation for 2024 is 8.3 billion kWh compared to the long-term average of 9.4 billion kWh. [Despite early runoff, upper basin runoff forecast below average; Gavins Point releases to increase for navigation flow support]
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.


Rural hospitals are closing at accelerating rates

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

In South Dakota, Monument, Avera and Sanford operate as a triopoly and as virtual monopolies in their own markets. It’s disaster capitalism for oligarchs and religionists masquerading as health care. 

Senator Jon Tester (D-MT) has known about the monopolistic nature of rural hospitals for decades. And after Amtrak's Empire Builder derailed near Joplin, Montana many of the injured passengers were unable to find medical care because area hospitals were overwhelmed with unvaccinated Republicans. The Benefis Health System hospital in Great Falls is about 100 miles from Joplin. Today according to WalletHub Idaho is the third most lucrative state for doctors just behind Montana and South Dakota.
Leaders in Montana, whose population is nearly half rural, credit Medicaid expansion as the reason their hospitals have largely avoided the financial crisis depicted by the report despite escalating costs, workforce shortages, and growing administrative burden. [Operating in the Red: Half of Rural Hospitals Lose Money, as Many Cut Services]
There is a growing movement among Democrats and others to fund Medicare for all but I like the idea of rolling the funding for Obamacare, TriCare, Medicare, the Indian Health Service and the Veterans Health Administration together then offering Medicaid for all by increasing the estate tax, raising taxes on tobacco and adopting a carbon tax.


Trump-led insurrection would have violated Noem's riot boosting law

After winning North Dakota by a 36% margin the Trump Organization ignored Republican Governor Doug Burgum's request for a "major disaster declaration" to help cover some of the estimated $38 million gift to the law enforcement industry who busted heads and chilled the civil rights of water protectors trying to stop the Dakota Excess pipeline.

Mercenaries and National Guard troops brutalized many of the thousands of demonstrators camped on federal land near Cannon Ball, North Dakota where some 761 people were arrested between early August and late February. Trump apparatchiks even referred to the American Indians and their compatriots as jihadists or insurgents. But as Commander in Chief Donald Trump clearly failed the State of North Dakota for not removing the protesting citizens from land managed by the US Army Corps of Engineers.
“The Corps needed to be on the record saying we do support constitutional rights to protest,” Col. John Henderson, who served as commander of the Corps’ Omaha District during the protests, testified Feb. 27. The Corps has authority over a segment of the pipeline that crosses under the Missouri River north of the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation. [Judge faults Corps for outcome of DAPL protests as trial wraps up third week]
Recall that in response to that citizen resistance in a neighboring state Republican South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem signed a bill that revived the state’s criminal and civil penalties for rioting and incitement so had Donald Trump led his insurrection in South Dakota he would have run afoul of her riot boosting law. 

Noem's anti-civil rights actions are no accident. She's is a graduate of the Koch Brothers' American Legislative Exchange Council or ALEC, an anti-think tank think tank that teaches how wedge issues raise campaign dollars for the extreme white wing of the Republican Party. South Dakota's GOP legislators and candidates enjoy millions in lobbyist benefits from ALEC. 

Intervenors were so frustrated with Mrs. Noem after she blew off a meeting with tribal members in 2019 the backlash resulted in her being banned from the Oglala Lakota Nation where she is forbidden to set foot again today. 

Learn more at High Country News.


Republicans suing again to stop executive from protecting public land

In February the Interior Department and Bureau of Indian Affairs approved the use of $31 million so the Klamath Tribes can acquire nearly 90,000 acres of private land within their historic reservation boundaries for ecosystem restoration and economic development.

Under the 1906 Antiquities Act and the America the Beautiful initiative President Joe Biden has moved to create the 400,000-acre Dolores River Canyon Country National Monument in Mesa and Montrose counties in Colorado and the 245,000 acre Mimbres Peaks National Monument in Luna County, New Mexico.

But Republicans, including South Dakota's former US Representative Kristi Noem, have been trying to restrict execution of the law since President Theodore Roosevelt first used it to create Devils Tower National Monument and seventeen other properties some of which became national and historical parks. So far, the Supreme Court of the United States has supported the statute's presidential powers with only two exceptions. My old Brookings pal, Scott Matteson had his artifact collection impounded and was prosecuted under provisions of the 1906 law. 

Now, Republicans in Arizona and Utah are challenging President Biden's authority to limit grazing permits on Baaj Nwaavjo I’tah Kukveni — Ancestral Footprints of the Grand Canyon National Monument and uranium mining leases on Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monuments.
“The Antiquities Act exists to protect Native American archeological sites, not to give presidents unlimited power to declare vast swaths of land and sea out of bounds for productive use,” Frank Garrison, an attorney at Pacific Legal Foundation, said in a statement. Biden has created five national monuments spanning more than 1.5 million acres since 2022 and restored 2 million acres to two Utah sites reduced during the Trump administration. [Arizona monument created by Biden faces volley of lawsuits]
What now? If that's indeed the case President Joe should simply find the money, buy out Republican welfare ranchers and remand the ground to Nations like the Klamath Tribes have been able to do.

ip images: Chaco Culture National Historical Park grew out one of the national monuments created by President Roosevelt.


Flycatcher survives Republican assault for now

Half of all migratory birds in North America move through the Patagonia, Arizona flyway and along the San Pedro River. 

In 2019 warblers, swallows and flycatchers began dying in large numbers throughout the southern Rockies. Scientists who study them note their emaciated conditions and reduced body fat. 

In 2020, to preserve more habitat for birds like the southwest willow flycatcher, the US Forest Service imposed more stringent measures under a legal settlement to keep grazing cattle away from waterways in New Mexico's Gila National Forest and Arizona's Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest.

In 2023 the Center for Biological Diversity sued the US Fish and Wildlife Service because of the agency's failure to better protect the Gila River from erosion caused by livestock.
A federal court upheld the southwestern willow flycatcher’s protection under the Endangered Species Act following a lawsuit by the New Mexico Cattle Growers’ Association. The Fish and Wildlife Service listed the southwestern willow flycatcher as a federally endangered subspecies in 1995 following widespread habitat loss across its range in Arizona, California, Colorado, New Mexico, Texas and Utah. When cattle graze in riparian areas, they tend to eat the young cottonwood and willow trees flycatchers need to breed and propagate. They also can trample streambanks, interrupt water flows and jeopardize water quality, endangering flycatchers' and other species’ habitats. The service found the highest number of breeding territories along the middle Rio Grande and upper Gila River in New Mexico, and Roosevelt Lake and the San Pedro and Gila River confluence area in Arizona. [Southwestern willow flycatcher keeps its protected status after ranchers lose legal case]
The robins that love juniper berries and the dark-eyed juncos that feed on grass seeds winter here in Santa Fe County. Pinyon jays (Gymnorhinus cyanocephalus) live here year round and mob the bird bath in a flock of about forty every morning but the bird's numbers have declined 80% in the last fifty years. 

ip image captured through the porch screen is that of a crissal thrasher which is considered quite rare in our part of New Mexico.


Thune warming to socialized passenger rail

My proposal for passenger rail from Minneapolis to Denver is a multi-modal route from the Twin Cities or Mankato on the right of way owned by the Rapid City, Pierre and Eastern Railroad to Brookings, South Dakota and Pierre then to Rapid City and to Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway tracks at Alliance via Chadron, Nebraska then to Cheyenne and Denver. 

A rail bed in the I-90 median with abundant opportunities for wildlife egress should also be explored.

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

Yet, even Senator John Thune (Earth hater-SD) sees a future for socialized passenger rail across his red moocher state. In 2016 Thune was recognized by the National Association of Railroad Passengers for supporting taxpayer funded service despite its absence in his home state. In 2020 he joined with Sen. Maggie Hassan (D-NH) to advance publicly bankrolled service in New Hampshire and across the country.
“We ought to be certainly open to, and if we can find a way to make that work, especially with some of the resources that are being made available through the infrastructure bill, South Dakota certainly ought to look at doing that,” Thune said. [Thune weighs in on Amtrak expansion to South Dakota]
Yes, socialized agriculture, socialized dairies, socialized cheese, socialized livestock production, a socialized timber industry, socialized air service, socialized freight rail, a socialized nursing home industry, socialized water systems and now a socialized internet are all fine with Republicans in South Dakota but then they insist single-payer medical insurance is socialized medicine. 

Stakeholders can comment on the Federal Railroad Administration's Long Distance Service Study here.


Today in pink slime: Republicans cause cancer

There are 23.4 million hogs in Iowa's concentrated animal feeding operations or about 7.3 pigs for every human in the state. Voluntary buffer strips and other conservation practices have simply failed desertifying parts of the state and causing the Raccoon River to be named one of the most endangered waterways in the United Snakes. 

Recall that in 2015, Republican then-Iowa Governor Terry Branstad helped to block a federal lawsuit that could have stopped industrial agriculture from polluting the Des Moines drinking water supply. That same year a judge appointed by Republican then-South Dakota Governor Denny Daugaard heard the case brought against ABC News for its role in dubbing so-called lean, finely textured beef "pink slime." 

Dakota Dunes-based Beef Products says it was forced to close three of its four plants and erase hundreds of jobs after consumers realized what is in the crap. Using ammonia to reduce bacteria BPI had a processing plant in Iowa but moved its headquarters to South Dakota to take advantage of the regressive tax structure and lax environmental oversight. 

According to court documents released to the Associated Press the slaughter house was in the business clique that raised concerns about a state official Branstad tried to force from office. BPI donates generously to Republican candidates like Senator John Thune (Earth hater-SD). 

Branstad was then picked by the corrupt Trump White House to replace Montana's Max Baucus as Ambassador to China.

Today, most of the corn grown in the US is fed to domestic livestock but a third of it will be processed for ethanol this year and subsidies of up to $700 an acre are the incentives to plant even more next year. 20 of Iowa's 99 counties are devoted exclusively to food that is ultimately burned for automobile fuel. Iowa contributes some 40% of the pollution killing the Gulf of Mexico. 

Roundup® is a threat to human life and is known to cause birth defects and spontaneous abortions despite assurances from manufacturer Bayer but high levels of glyphosate, a known endocrine disruptor, are still found in oats, chickpeas and corn sugars.
In Iowa, first-term Democratic state Rep. Austin Baeth, an internal medicine specialist from Des Moines, is leading a bipartisan effort in the state legislature to end what he calls “Iowa’s cancer crisis.” Working with Democrats and Republicans, Baeth says a number of bills are being drafted for legislative consideration later this year. A proposal that Baeth and colleagues are developing would fund an epidemiological research program to more precisely evaluate potential causes of cancer, identify the sources of exposure, the number of people sickened, and the places where excess cancers are developing. Commercial nitrogen fertilizer and nitrogen-rich livestock and poultry manure are the leading sources of nitrate contamination that is increasing in the region’s surface and groundwater, according to state environment and agriculture agencies. According to many studies, as much as 70% of the nitrogen applied to farmland leaked off fields and drained toxic nitrates into the region’s waters. In 2023, alarm bells started to ring in Iowa when the state cancer registry reported that its citizens were suffering with the second-highest incidence of cancer in the U.S. [Cancer-related diseases and deaths spur actions to fight farm chemical contamination in Corn Belt]


Thune backing aid to Ukraine but angering Trumpsters

Amid the continual sturm and drang from Senator John Thune (Earth hater-SD) is a constant harangue at his Faceberg page from the far white wing of his political party who revere Donald Trump's patron, Vladimir Putin. 

Recall that in 2005 as part of the Base Realignment and Closure Commission (BRAC) Republicans like Bruce Rampelberg helped to make Ellsworth Air Force Base an even bigger target for retaliatory attacks but today exercises over the Powder River Training Complex are suspended in part because of the poor condition of B-1 bombers stationed at Ellsworth. 

The Trump Organization had planned to spend at least half a billion taxpayer dollars on each new B-21 Raider and some $1.4 TRILLION on a proposed Defense Department budget instead of really making America great again. Trump wanted to put the now $700 billion over-budget bomber in red states to avoid confrontations with Democratic governors but Republicans are whining about the poor condition of the obsolete B-2 and the B-1B Lancers some of which are stationed at Ellsworth Air Force Base in occupied South Dakota. Why? Because the Republican government shutdown and the 2013 sequester to embarrass President Barack Obama ripped into military readiness

Meanwhile, deteriorating B-1s are eating up resources and the seventy year old B-52 continues to rain death on civilians in war torn countries on stages in the usual theaters of war. So, instead of rattling impossibly expensive sabers Trump should have been accelerating the cleanup of the per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) contaminating nearly every military base in the United States and in the other countries subjected to American imperialism.
The 2024 South Dakota Legislature considered two spending measures for construction projects aimed at preparing for an influx of military personnel and civilians arriving with the launch of the new B-21 Raider bomber program at Ellsworth Air Force Base. But Morgan Gruebele, a budget analyst with the state Bureau of Finance and Management, told senators it would be unfair to provide extra state money to Douglas schools when other districts across the state are not receiving it. The Senate Education Committee passed the bill on a 5-2 vote, but the Joint Appropriations Committee rejected it in an 11-7 vote. [B-21 Ellsworth expansion getting mixed support in Pierre]
The GOP is Trump’s party now so the Reagan and Cheney voters are wandering in the wilderness and likely to stay home in November dooming many down ticket Republicans. And, with Mitch McConnell going away John Thune will find himself straddling a very rickety fence especially after voting to aid Ukraine in her fight against Vlad the Impaler.