BLM year-long deal dries up in just two months

In May the Bureau of Land Management announced it had come to a year-long deal with ranchers on the Argenta allotment in the Battle Moutain District to allow grazing.

This came after the district manager told ranchers there would be no grazing this summer due to drought, though independent range consultants said the range was suitable and even needed to be grazed to prevent wildfire.

The agreement was reached after a widespread and well-publicized protest to the BLM’s arbitrary and livelihood-threatening decisions.

Elko County Commissioner Grant Gerber staged what he called a Grass March that highlighted the plight of ranchers and called for the ouster of the district manager.

This week, according to the Elko Daily Free Press, the ranchers were told that half the grazing areas would be closed to grazing and cattle had to be moved in seven days.

“We have 7 days to ride the entire mountain and have the cattle off. We are right in the middle of haying and are forced to drop everything and begin gathering cattle,” the Tomeras wrote in an email to various elected officials. “We are forced to put the cattle in areas that have much less forage than the mountain where they are now. Much of their monitoring reflects only a small portion of the area yet this is what they use to determine the health of the entire area.”

The Tomeras also said their range consultant was denied access to the BLM’s monitoring data. About half the land is privately owned but not fenced off. All the water rights are privately held.

Nevadans will have to pay more for saving the planet

NV Energy managed to convince Nevada lawmakers to toss them in the briar patch. Now power customers will be paying the tab.

According to news reports, the Public Utility Commission may allow the company to recoup up to $60 million a year over the next three years for the cost of shutting down perfectly good, acceptably clean coal-fired power plants.

Then the power company will have to build new power plants to replace the coal-fired capacity. Guess who will pay for those.

To cut its risks and cover its assets the NV Energy submitted Senate Bill 123 to the Legislature. The bill saddles ratepayers with every dime of the cost to mothball the coal plants — including any undepreciated balance, decommissioning and remediation, contract termination costs, even the value of any unused coal left lying around.

Dan Jacobsen of the attorney general’s Bureau of Consumer Protection, which represents ratepayer interests at the Public Utilities Commission, said at the time, “In addition to replacing about 1,000 megawatts of coal capacity, the bill also would be replacing a very large amount of power purchase agreements right now that ratepayers don’t have to provide a return on.”

NV Energy’s profits come from a rate of return on equity, which is currently about 10 percent, but the more equity in power plants and power lines the greater the return.

Jacobsen also said SB123 could deter the PUC’s ability to control costs. One part dictates the “Commission shall approve” costs, and another says emissions reduction “shall be deemed to be a prudent investment. The electric utility may recover all just and reasonable costs …”

Time to pay the tab.

And you can thank Harry Reid.


Newspaper column: Bashing right-wingers for fun and profit, mostly profit

The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) recently published a report loosely based on the standoff at the Cliven Bundy ranch in Bunkerville titled “War in the West: The Bundy Ranch Standoff and the American Radical Right.”

It was duly reported by the press without a smidgen of skepticism, as noted in this week’s newspaper column available on The Ely Times and the Elko Daily Free Press.

“The Bundy standoff has invigorated an extremist movement that exploded when  President Obama was elected, going from some 150 groups in 2008 to more than 1,000 last year,” the report declares breathlessly on its opening page, without an ounce of documentation or attribution. “Though the movement has waxed and waned over the last three decades, antigovernment extremists have long pushed, most fiercely during Democratic administrations, rabid conspiracy theories about a nefarious New World Order …”

More cameras than guns. (Reuters photo)

SPCL is a multimillion-dollar leftist organization built on direct marketing and scare tactics, having little to do with poverty or law. It touts itself as “a nonprofit organization that combats hate, intolerance and discrimination through education and litigation.” Yet it spreads hate and intolerance with vile innuendo and speculation. It also inflates its hate group count by counting every chapter in every state as a separate group.

In a press release announcing the “War” report, SPLC’s Mark Potok claims, “The Bundy ranch standoff wasn’t a spontaneous response to Cliven Bundy’s predicament but rather a well-organized, military-type action that reflects the potential for violence from a much larger and more dangerous movement.”

This conclusion is based entirely on an interview with a single person, 30-year-old Ryan Payne of Montana, who the report claims told “counter snipers” where to position themselves behind concrete and pavement barriers. Basically, as shown in photographs in the report and in numerous newspapers, a man with a rifle peeked between barriers on a highway overpass. In one photo there is one rifle and a half dozen cameras. No mention is made of the photo taken by Bundy family members of Bureau of Land Management snipers atop hills.

As for the claim that the support for Bundy was not spontaneous, the report contradicts its author by pointing out that Payne spontaneously drove through the night from Montana with a friend after becoming enraged by a YouTube video of BLM agents using a Taser on one of Bundy’s sons.

The standoff between the BLM and the armed supporters ended on April 12. The agency had shown up with hundreds of heavily armed agents to confiscate Bundy’s cattle, which had been grazing without permits on federal land in Gold Butte for 20 years.

Though the SPLC says 900 of Bundy’s cattle had been rounded up and placed in pens, media reports place the number at less than 500. SPLC also notes that the BLM packed up and left, citing a “serious concern about the safety of employees and members of the public,” not mentioning that the BLM had not secured any place to take the confiscated cattle and had no choice but to let them go, as Clark County Sheriff Doug Gillespie has confirmed.

The report also makes numerous redundant references to the presence at the ranch of Jerad and Amanda Miller — who later ambushed and killed two Las Vegas police officers and a civilian who tried to stop them — suggesting an ideological affinity. The report did not mention that the couple was told to leave the ranch or that they had also attended a leftist Million Mask March in Indiana.

SPLC’s definition of hate groups is broad, sweeping in groups that question amnesty for illegal immigrants and church groups that oppose gay marriage. None of the so-called hate groups on its list is on the left of the political spectrum. There are groups with the phrase tea party or patriot in their names but none with occupy or pro choice.

SPLC was founded in 1971 by direct mail marketer Morris Dees. According to the organization’s 2012 IRS report, the latest available, it had assets of more than $290 million, receiving more than $37.5 million in contributions and grants that year.

Writer Potok was paid $163,000, while Dees fetched more than $350,000, as did President and CEO Richard Cohen. Eight other staffers were paid between $100,000 and $200,000 each.

As for tolerance, Potok told a hate crimes conference in 2007, “Sometimes the press will describe us as monitoring hate crimes and so on … I want to say plainly that our aim in life is to destroy these groups, to completely destroy them.”

Tolerance, sweet tolerance.

Also read the column at Ely or Elko.

Just say no to the rural groundwater grab, once and for all

The Las Vegas newspaper today editorially points out the city’s primary water source is drying up. That’s obvious from the white bath tub ring around Lake Mead.

As to the answer to the problem, the editorialists suggest tapping groundwater from rural Nevada — a proposition that would be harmful for both the rural area and the urbanites.

Saying “make no mistake” twice, the editorial concludes:

The truth is that, historically, droughts along the Colorado River are normal and can last decades. As such, the continuing decline of Lake Mead is a reminder to develop whatever additional water resources we can. Reducing the standard of living in this region is not a solution.

Make no mistake, no one wants to build the rural groundwater pipeline. Indeed, several lawsuits aim to prevent it, and the cost of the project would be massive — many billions of dollars, including service on construction debt. But make no mistake, the water authority must be prepared to forge ahead if river conditions continue to deteriorate.

That would be a mistake.

According to the state engineer, who is water rights arbiter in Nevada, the Southern Nevada Water Authority’s plan to draw 84,000 acre-feet of groundwater would affect the water table outside the valleys that would be tapped. Groundwater in Cave, Dry Lake and Delamar valleys are linked to the White River Flow System and drawing down the water table in those valleys could affect water resources as far away as Pahranagat Valley, Lake Valley, Muddy River Springs Valley, Lower Moapa Valley, and Coyote Spring Valley.

Lake Mead’s bath tub ring

One state lawsuit opposing the pipeline project contends, “The proposed pumping would amount to a devastating groundwater mining project, under which the groundwater system would not even begin to approach equilibrium for thousands of years, with the potential of never reaching equilibrium.”

That would deter rural development efforts.

As for urban Clark County, the bottom line is that it’s still too darned expensive.

The infrastructure cost is still $7.3 billion, according to a study by Hobbs, Ong & Associates of Las Vegas and Public Financial Management of Seattle. (The study: SNWA_Exh_383_Hobbs and Bonow Report) The cost per acre-foot just for the capital expense alone is well north of $2,000 per acre-foot. That’s while Colorado River water is being sold to farmers in California and Arizona for well less than $20 per acre-foot.

As the SNWA’s own study admits, water rates in Las Vegas would at least triple if the groundwater is tapped and piped south. That would deter development in Clark County.

The first that should be done is to fill Lake Mead with Lake Powell water.

Research for the Glen Canyon Institute by hydrologist Dr. Thomas Myers found that 260,000 to 390,000 acre-feet of water seeps into the banks of Lake Powell annually, which the Bureau of Reclamation, the manager of the river, fails to take into account.

That is Nevada’s annual allotment of Colorado River water.

But the real solution lies in changing water from a socialized commodity to one openly bought and sold in a free market.

Allow the municipalities, industries, farmers and ranchers with existing water rights to buy, sell and trade in an open market. Why would a farmer continue to grow rice or cotton with his $20 an acre-foot water, when he can sell it to the water authority in Las Vegas for, say, $200? Instead of allowing that allotment to flow through the dams and canals to Yuma, Las Vegas could take that share from Lake Mead.

No need for a water grab. Problem solved.


Here comes the Sun, devoid of any light

Greenspun column on something that happened two weeks ago.

Greenspun column on something that happened two weeks ago.

What a steaming pile of claptrap.

Two weeks after buying out his brother and sisters — who had voted to accept an offer to cease printing the Las Vegas Sun as a section in the Las Vegas Review-Journal under a joint operating agreement (JOA) — Sun publisher and putative editor Brian Greenspun takes the banner position in his 10-page section to blather about his father. Nothing new there.

He poor mouths his way through the whole screed, saying things like: “while I am not allowed to discuss what I paid to make that deal happen, the cost was very dear.”

And in his typical ancestor worshipfulness: “Many decades ago, my father visited me in college to tell me about a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. This was not long after a fire had destroyed the Las Vegas Sun, the rebuilding of which caused my parents to go deeply into debt, which they had little or no chance of repaying if they expected to do it from the meager profits that the newspaper made, sometimes.”

Apparently Hank Greenspun had an offer from someone to buy the paper but he first wanted to ask his son — apparently not any of his other children, since no mention is made of them — whether he wanted to continue in the newspaper business. Brian says his answer was yes.

He makes no mention anywhere of the fast real estate deals his father made in order to build Green Valley in Henderson and become fabulously wealthy, nor of him using the newspaper to tout his friends, punish his enemies and shill for certain politicians.

At one point in the column Brian boasts, “What I now own is a company with some of the best reporters, editors, designers, salespeople and dreamers in the news industry. If the Las Vegas Sun and its sister publications survive and prosper in the coming years, it will be because of the hard work, dedication and imagination of the people who call the Greenspun Media Group home.”

This statement is on a front page, three-quarters of which is filled with a Los Angeles Times feature on development at the Grand Canyon. The only thing else on the page is a puff piece by Robin Leach about the first 100 days of operation of an oversized roller coaster on the Strip that first appeared online this past Tuesday.

The back page is a feature by a local writer about two Las Vegas performers appearing in Los Angeles that first appeared online Friday.

The rest, save two letters to the editor, is syndicated columns and features. Don’t want to work those best reporters and editors too hard now, Brian.

If I recall, the JOA gives Greenspun wide birth as to the content of the section and requires that it be delivered daily with the R-J. Short of pornography or repulsive photos of aborted fetuses, he can publish just about anything he wishes and it gets delivered to the driveway — whether it is news or not.

Perhaps his father is still waiting for him to continue in the newspaper business, since what he is doing now is certainly not the newspaper business.


Newspaper column: Anti-fracking lawsuit doesn’t hold water

Send in the Luddites. Don’t bother they’re here.

A group calling itself the Reese River Basin Citizens Against Fracking has joined the cacophony of doomsayers crying in the wilderness for all oil and natural gas exploration to be stopped lest the planet fly off its axis, as reported in this week’s newspaper column, available online at The Ely Times, the Elko Daily Free Press and the Mesquite Local News.

Specifically, they have filed a federal lawsuit against the Bureau of Land Management in an effort to stop a scheduled lease of 230,000 acres of federally controlled land in Lander, Nye and Esmeralda counties for oil and gas drilling, saying the leases will cause “irreparable harm to the environment, cultural treasures and aesthetic interests.”

The 24-page suit goes through the typical litany of alleged woes that come with the hobgoblin of the hour — hydraulic fracturing or fracking, the process in which water and sand are pumped into a well under high pressure to crack rock and shale formations to release oil and gas deposits, which has been practiced since the 1940s and now is used in 90 percent of wells. This has caused a boom in the domestic production of oil and gas, mostly on private land.

While the suit makes a big deal about how much scarce water it takes to frack a well, it also claims the BLM failed to take into account the impact fracking might have on the “numerous alfalfa farms that are adjacent to the parcels both in Reese River and Smoky Valleys.” The suit fails to explain that a one-time well fracking job uses about as much water as an acre of alfalfa every year — about four acre-feet, though most of the fracking water is recycled. Also, the driller would have to buy the water from those who own the water rights.

This lawsuit comes on the heels of a formal anti-fracking lease protest to the BLM by the Center for Biological Diversity, which made much of the fact that fracking uses “toxic chemicals.” Tap water contains toxic chemicals, including the highly toxic chlorine that makes it safe to drink.

The contents of the fracking solution used in the only fracked well in Nevada — in Elko County earlier this year — are posted online at a site called FracFocus, and it is 99.5 percent water and sand with less hydrochloric acid than is found in a typical swimming pool.

While all this gnashing of teeth is going on, The Associated Press reports that many states have yet to recover the jobs lost in the recession. Nevada ranked worst in the nation, having 6 percent fewer nonfarm payroll jobs now than in December 2007. Best in the nation? North Dakota with a growth of 27.6 percent in jobs. Texas was next with growth in jobs of 9.5 percent.

A waitress in North Dakota can earn $25 an hour, while a truck driver can fetch $80,000 a year.

Why do you think that is?

The suit: Resse River lawsuit

Read the entire column at Ely, Elko or Mesquite.

Sheriff now confirms BLM had no place to take Bundy’s confiscated cattle

A source told us back in April that the real reason the BLM backed down and released Cliven Bundy’s confiscated cattle wasn’t to avoid a shootout with armed Bundy supporters but was because the BLM had no place to take the cattle.

Sheriff Doug Gillespie has now confirmed this.

In a recent editorial board with the Las Vegas Review-Journal, Gillespie said, although officials told him they had a place to move the cattle, he later discovered that wasn’t true.

“There was no place to take them to,” Gillespie told the newspaper.

The BLM said at the time: “Based on information about conditions on the ground, and in consultation with law enforcement, we have made a decision to conclude the cattle gather because of our serious concern about the safety of employees and members of the public.”

I wondered at the time why, after eight days of rounding up “trespass cattle” from the Gold Butte ranch, all the captured cows were still in corrals on site. It made no sense to be hauling hay to them, when they could be trucked to feedlots equipped to handle them.

Bundy cattle released April 12. (R-J photo by Jason Bean)

A source with a source told me a network of Western cattle ranchers and those who provide them services collectively got on the phone and their computers with each other and decided to boycott the BLM roundup. No feedlot would take the cattle for auction. No trucker was available to haul the cows.

“Hey, do you want to know the REAL reason why the BLM backed off a week or so ago?”  my source’s source asked him. “You’ll never read about this in the news media.”

At least not for several months.

The BLM was stuck with cattle that would start dying without food.  Not good optics since all the assembled local media and national media and social media would capture the starvation.

How much cooperation BLM will get from the sheriff in the future?

Gillespie told the R-J that the BLM officials lied to him, ignored his advice and dismissed his warnings.

“I think if anybody would look at how they (BLM) handled the protesting with the use of Tasers and police dogs, anyone who had been in policing would question those tactics,” he told the Las Vegas Sun. “And I believe that led to the heightened interest and escalating the situation.”

BLM spokeswoman Celia Boddington told The Associated Press that the agency planned and conducted the roundup in “full coordination” with Gillespie and his officers.

“It is unfortunate that the sheriff is now attempting to rewrite the details of what occurred, including his claims that the BLM did not share accurate information,” she was quoted as saying. “The sheriff encouraged the operation and promised to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with us as we enforced two recent federal court orders. …

“Sadly, he backed out of his commitment shortly before the operation — and after months of joint planning — leaving the BLM and the National Park Service to handle the crowd control that the sheriff previously committed to handling.”



What ‘baggage’ are illegal immigrants bringing with them?

Illegal immigrant children at an Air Force base in Texas. (Breitbart photo)

Three people died of tuberculosis at a Las Vegas hospital recently and 20 hospital staffers were exposed to the disease.

Fourteen students were diagnosed with TB at a Las Vegas high school this year and several more at another high school this past year.

Why the sudden outbreak?

A number of those in the latest wave of illegal immigrants — many of them children — are bringing the once rare disease and others with them. But health and immigration officials are trying to hush it up, according to Fox News and other news media. Nurses and doctors have been threatened with arrest if they tell the public about the horrid conditions and rampant diseases inside a shelter for illegal immigrant children at a San Antonio Air Force Base.

One nurse said children in the camp had measles, scabies, chicken pox and strep throat.

According to one newspaper account, illegals being released by U.S. Border Patrol — told to show up months later for an immigration hearing that few of them bother to attend — have not not been screened  for vaccinations or tuberculosis or other diseases while in federal custody.

The fear of an epidemic was one of the reasons citizens in Murrieta, Calif., blocked bus loads of illegals from being taken to a detention center there.

“Jeff Stone, the chairman of the Riverside County Board of Supervisors, told the audience that he was concerned about communicable diseases that the migrants could be carrying, such as whooping cough, swine flu or tuberculosis,” The New York Times reported. “Mr. Beeson said four children had been sent to local hospitals this week, two with a fever and two with scabies.” The Times did not indicate whether the children were recent immigrants or local children.

Confrontation in Murrieta, Calif. (NYT photo)



Newspaper column: BLM seeks dismissal of suit over handling of wild horses, saying it is caught in the middle

Wild horses in corrals in Carson City (R-J photo by John Locher)

The Bureau of Land Management this past week filed a motion to dismiss a lawsuit brought against it in Nevada federal court over its failure to properly manage wild horses, as required by law, and letting the mustang population explode far beyond what the range is capable of handling.

The suit from the Nevada Association of Counties, the Nevada Farm Bureau Federation and others asks the court to issue an injunction or writ requiring federal agencies to follow the wild horse and burro law, because its current failure to do so is starving the very animals the law was intended to protect, damaging range land used for cattle grazing and taking private water rights, as reported in this week’s newspaper column, available online at The Ely Times, the Elko Daily Free Press and the Mesquite Local News.

“Free-roaming horse and burro herds in Nevada are frequently observed to be in malnourished condition, with the ribs and skeletal features of individual animals woefully on view and other signs of ill-health readily observable,” the suit says.

The BLM argues the suit is “nonjusticiable” because it fails to identify a single “final action” by the agency that caused damage, but rather asks the court to micromanage the BLM’s thousands of daily decisions about the management of feral horses — actually an invasive species with no natural predators and insatiable appetites.

But perhaps the court needs to play the role of Solomon and split this baby, because, as the BLM motion notes, the law clearly requires the BLM to maintain the feral horse population and destroy unadoptable excess wild horses, but the congressional budget specifically denies any funding for doing so.

The Wild Free-Roaming Horse and Burro Act of 1971 says, “The Secretary (of Interior) shall cause additional excess wild free roaming horses and burros for which an adoption demand by qualified individuals does not exist to be destroyed in the most humane and cost efficient manner possible.”

But this year’s budget, just as every budget since 2009, states, “Appropriations herein made shall not be available for the destruction of healthy, unadopted, wild horses and burros in the care of the Bureau or its contractors or for the sale of wild horses and burros that results in their destruction for processing into commercial products.”

The motion to dismiss suggests that the proper course for the plaintiffs is not through the courts “but through petitions to Congress and the Executive.” A fat lot of good it does to ask Harry Reid’s Congress to do anything. It is inert, inept and too often self-contradictory.

There are nearly 50,000 feral horses and burros on the open range in the West, nearly 50 percent more than the range can handle. About half those are in Nevada. Off the range, there are another 48,000 animals in either short-term corrals or long-term pastures, which the taxpayers are feeding for their average 25-year life span.

Oddly enough there are many news stories now about state and federal agencies battling an invasive species with no natural predators and insatiable appetites that is devastating businesses and recreational use of the Great Lakes. But there is no Wild and Free-Roaming Asian Carp Act.

Read the entire column at Ely, Elko or Mesquite.

BLM motion to dismiss

Wild Horse suit