News in Brief


Thursday, January 28, 2016

Oregon Standoff – A Tale Of The BLM - Uranium and Gold Deal

Oregon Standoff – Agenda 21 and the BLM 
Barbara H. Peterson    miner
It appears that there is much more to the Hammond/Bundy story than meets the eye. For a bit of history, let’s go to Tri-State Livestock News:
The fires
The first fire, in 2001, was a planned burn on Hammonds’ own property to reduce juniper trees that have become invasive in that part of the country. That fire burned outside the Hammonds’ private property line and took in 138 acres of unfenced BLM land before the Hammonds got it put out. No BLM firefighters were needed to help extinguish the fire and no fences were damaged.
“They called and got permission to light the fire,” Dwight’s wife, Susan, said, adding that was customary for ranchers conducting range management burns – a common practice in the area.
“We usually called the interagency fire outfit – a main dispatch – to be sure someone wasn’t in the way or that weather wouldn’t be a problem.” Susan said her son Steven was told that the BLM was conducting a burn of their own somewhere in the region the same day, and that they believed there would be no problem with the Hammonds going ahead with their planned fire. The court transcript includes a recording from that phone conversation.
In cross-examination of a prosecution witness, the court transcript also includes an admission from Mr. Ward, a range conservationist, that the 2001 fire improved the rangeland conditions on the BLM property.
Maupin, who resigned from the BLM in 1999, said that collaborative burns between private ranchers and the BLM had become popular in the late 1990s because local university extension researchers were recommending it as a means to manage invasive juniper that steal water from grass and other cover.
“Juniper encroachment had become an issue on the forefront and was starting to come to a head. We were trying to figure out how to deal with it on a large scale,” said Maupin, whose family neighbored the Hammonds for a couple of years.
“In 1999, the BLM started to try to do large scale burn projects. We started to be successful on the Steens Mountain especially when we started to do it on a large watershed scale as opposed to trying to follow property lines.”
Because private and federal land is intermingled, collaborative burns were much more effective than individual burns that would cover a smaller area, Maupin said.
Maupin said prescribed burns to manage juniper were common in the late 1990s and early 2000s, best done late in the fall when the days are cooler.
Prescribed burns on federal land in their area have all but stopped due to pressure from special interest groups, Maupin said. As a result, wildfires now burn much hotter due to a “ladder” of material on the ground – grass, brush and trees.
“The fires now burn really hot and they sterilize the ground. Then you have a weed patch that comes back.”
Maupin said planned burning in cooler weather like the Hammonds chose to do improves the quality of the forage, and makes for better sage grouse habitat by removing juniper trees that suck up water and house raptors – a sage grouse predator.
Susan said the second fire, in 2006, was a backfire started by Steven to protect their property from lightning fires.
“There was fire all around them that was going to burn our house and all of our trees and everything. The opportunity to set a back-fire was there and it was very successful. It saved a bunch of land from burning,” she remembers.
The BLM asserts that one acre of federal land was burned by the Hammonds’ backfire and Susan says determining which fire burned which land is “a joke” because fire burned from every direction.
Neighbor Ruthie Danielson also remembers that evening and agrees. “Lightning strikes were everywhere, fires were going off,” she said.
The Hammonds were charged with nine counts in the original court case.
The BLM accused the Hammonds of several 2006 fires, including a large one known as the Granddad, which blazed about 46,000 acres.
According to the 2012 sentencing document, the jury found the men innocent or were deadlocked on all but two counts – the two fires the men admitted to starting – burning a total of about 140 acres.
Judge Hogen dismissed testimony from a disgruntled grandson who testified that the 2001 fire endangered his life and that of local hunters, saying the boy was very young and referencing a feud that may have influenced the testimony.
“Well, the damage was juniper trees and sagebrush, and there might have been a hundred dollars,” he added.
More to the story?
During her tenure as a full time BLM employee from 1997-1999, Maupin recalls other fires accidentally spilling over onto BLM land, but only the Hammonds have been charged, arrested and sentenced, she said. Ranchers might be burning invasive species or maybe weeds in the ditch. “They would call and the BLM would go and help put it out and it was not a big deal.”
On the flip side, Maupin remembers numerous times that BLM-lit fires jumped to private land. Neighbors lost significant numbers of cattle in more than one BLM fire that escaped intended containment lines and quickly swallowed up large amounts of private land. To her knowledge, no ranchers have been compensated for lost livestock or other loss of property such as fences.
Gary Miller, who ranches near Frenchglen, about 35 miles from the Hammonds’ hometown, said that in 2012, the BLM lit numerous backfires that ended up burning his private land, BLM permit and killing about 65 cows.
A YouTube video named BLM Working at Burning Frenchglen-July 10, 2012 shows “back burn” fires allegedly lit by BLM personnel that are upwind of the main fire, including around Gary Miller’s corrals. The fire that appeared ready to die down several times, eventually burned around 160,000 acres, Miller said.
Bill Wilber, a Harney County rancher, said five lightening strikes on July 13, 2014, merged to create a fire on Bartlett Mountain. The fire flew through his private ground, burned a BLM allotment and killed 39 cows and calves.
While the fire could have been contained and stopped, BLM restrictions prevent local firefighting efforts like building a fireline, so only after taking in 397,000 acres did the fire finally stop when it came up against a series of roads.
The issue isn’t limited to Oregon. In 2013, two South Dakota prescribed burns started by the U.S. Forest Service–over the objections of area landowners– blew out of control, burning thousands of acres of federal and private land. Ranchers that suffered property damage from the Pautre fire in Perkins County, South Dakota filed extensive tort claims in accordance with federal requirements, but will receive no compensation because USDA found the U.S. Forest Service not responsible for that fire.
So, it appears that burns were regularly conducted by private parties in conjunction with BLM personnel. No big deal. Until the Hammonds. But why? Could this maneuvering by the BLM possibly be politically motivated?
In an effort to stave off what they feared was a pending Clinton/Babbitt monument designation in 2000, a group of ranchers on the scenic Steens Mountain worked with Oregon Representative Greg Walden, a Republican, to draft and enact the Steens Mountain Cooperative Management and Protection Act that would prevent such a deed. The ranchers agreed to work with special interest “environmental” groups like the aggressive Oregon Natural Desert Association and others to protect the higher-than 10,000-foot peak.
A number of ranchers at the top of the mountain traded their BLM permits and private property for land on the valley floor, allowing Congress to create a 170,000 acre wilderness in 2000, with almost 100,000 acres being “cow-free.”
“The last holdouts on that cow-free wilderness are the Hammonds,” said Maupin. Though some still have BLM grazing permits, the Hammonds are the last private landowners in the area.
“It’s become more and more obvious over the years that the BLM and the wildlife refuge want that ranch. It would tie in with what they have,” said Rusty Inglis, an area rancher and retired U.S. Forest Service employee.
The last holdouts in a war for land that the BLM wants. It appears that Agenda 21 is in full swing, and the Hammonds just happen to be in the way and have no intentions of moving. So the problem becomes how to make them move.
In the Hammonds’ plea agreement in the 2012 trial, the BLM obtained the first right of refusal should the family have to sell their private land…
With the BLM waiting in the wings as the first to snap up the land by court order when they are forced out, it becomes relatively apparent what is really going on in Harney County.
BLM Uranium and Gold Deal
Uranium deposits are considered “locatable minerals” under The General Mining Law of 1872, as amended. That law opened the public lands of the United States to mineral acquisition by the location and maintenance of mining claims. The exploration and mining of these types of mineral deposits are administered under the General Mining Law Regulations at 43 CFR 3800. For more information visit the OR/WA BLM’s Locatable mineral website:
Private ownership of any land in the targeted area is a problem. The land needs to be “public” land.
Sprawling Malheur County could soon be in the spotlight as a mining hub — or a battleground of uranium and gold mining interests vs. environmentalists trying to protect its lonesome sagebrush landscape.
Australian-owned Oregon Energy LLC hopes to mine 18 million pounds of yellowcake uranium from the southeastern Oregon high desert 10 miles west of McDermitt near the Oregon-Nevada boundary. The go-ahead to mine the so-called Aurora uranium deposit could bring up to 250 construction jobs to the county, followed by 150 mining jobs.
Meanwhile, Calico Resources USA Corp., a subsidiary of a Vancouver, B.C., company, may seek permits this month to chemically extract microscopic gold from a high desert butte south of Vale called Grassy Mountain, a project likely to create another 100 jobs.​
If this is connected, it is an absolutely brilliant plan! Enlist the help of ranchers working with environmentalists who think they are protecting the land to grab that land for the BLM and place it in the “public” land category in accordance with Agenda 21, so the BLM can then make a deal with private corporations to mine the Uranium and Gold in the now “public” land.
Map of Oregon Counties
More info here:

A Tale of Cattle, Sage Grouse, and Uranium in Oregon

Will the State Water Board Destroy the CA Delta?

By Dan Bacher
In comments to the press at the “Water 2.0 event” sponsored by the Association ofCalifornia's $15+ billion waterstealing "WaterFix" boondoggleCalifornia Water Agencies (ACWA) this January, Governor Jerry Brown claimed building the Delta Tunnels under the California Water Fix project is “absolutely necessary” for the “future” of California. Delta and fish advocates strongly disagree with the Governor’s claim.
Delta and fish advocates point out that the tunnels project will only exacerbate a disastrous fishery and ecosystem collapse spurred by massive water exports out of the largest estuary on the West Coast of the Americas. As Delta and longfin smelt, winter-run Chinook salmon, Central Valley steelhead, green sturgeon and other species are driven closer and closer to the abyss of extinction, the State Water Board still operates Delta outflow on a 20-year-old Water Quality Control Plan that was due to be revised in 1998, according to Restore the Delta (RTD).
On January 25, RTD held a teleconference, featuring a panel of experts, entitled “The State Water Board and the Declining Health of the SF Bay Estuary.” The panel included Tim Stroshane, Policy Analyst, Restore the Delta; Darcie Luce, Water Policy Specialist, Friends of the San Francisco Bay Estuary; Bill Jennings, Executive Director, California Sportfishing Protection Alliance; Bob Wright, Senior Counsel, Friends of the River; and Barbara Barrigan-Parrilla, Executive Director, Restore the Delta.
Below is the text of the press release and links to the full statements by the speakers:
The State Water Board and the Decline Health of the San Francisco Bay-Delta Estuary
The San Francisco Bay-Delta Estuary is on the brink of environmental disaster. The fish, wildlife, drinking water, and the many other uses it provides are all declining due to massive water exports. The State Water Resources Control board still operates Delta outflow on a 20-year-old Water Quality Control Plan that was due to be revised in 1998. This outdated plan allows more than half the water needed for the Delta’s ecological health to be diverted away largely for unsustainable industrial agriculture in the southwest San Joaquin Valley. Now the State Water Board is considering permits for the Delta Tunnels without first updating the best available science about how to keep the SF Bay Delta Estuary alive.   The Delta Tunnels will destroy the sole source of drinking water for one million Delta residents, the physical environment and the state’s most magnificent fisheries and breathtaking habitat for birds on the Pacific flyway – not to mention the agricultural and related economies for an additional three million Delta area residents. The Delta is not California’s sacrifice zone.
On the call were a group of experts who have followed the State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB) for decades who were asked, “How did we get into this situation and what must be done to fix it, now?”
Here are samples from each of the speakers:
Tim Stroshane
Policy analyst, Restore the Delta – presented background on the Bay-Delta Water Quality Control Plan and recent flow history (510) 847-7556
By 2005, scientists sounded the alarm in the media about the sudden collapse of yet more Delta fish species besides those already listed. They found that nonnative invasive shellfish in the Delta were concentrating selenium and other toxins in their tissues, threatening the health of Delta food webs.
All the while, state and federal water exports from the Delta increased 50 percent, from 3.6 million acre-feet in the 1970s to 5.4 million acre-feet in the 2000s.
Such dire conditions barely roused the Water Board to action, when staff in 2006 revised the 1995 plan, but changed none of its water quality objectives despite the Delta’s well documented collapse. Planning for the Governor’s Tunnels Project got under way that year too.
In 2009, the Legislature specifically ordered the Water Board to determine what flows Delta fish need, which it did in 2010. The Board has done its best to ignore its own findings.
Full Statement
Darcie Luce
Water Policy Specialist, Friends of the San Francisco Bay Estuary – spoke on the Permanent Drought and Impacts on San Francisco Bay (510) 282-1254
Last year’s State of the Estuary Report found that the status of freshwater inflow is poor and declining for both the Bay and Delta. Not only have we failed to improve the delivery of fresh water to the estuary, we’ve actually been doing a worse job in the past decade or so—and of course, that is evident in the widespread decline of fish species. In effect, we have created a chronic and artificial drought for our fish and wildlife that depend on the Bay-Delta Estuary. Dr. Peter Moyle, one of the foremost authorities on this subject, has stated that from a fish perspective, California has been in an increasingly severe drought since the 1960s; and that during this current extreme drought, the environment is the ‘water user’ that has suffered the most.”
Full Statement
Bill Jennings
Chairman/executive director, California Sportfishing Protection Alliance –  spoke on the decline of Bay-Delta Fish Species 209-938-9053
The biological tapestry of the Bay-Delta estuary is disintegrating and a number of species are on the brink to extinction. Fisheries, I might add, that evolved and prospered over thousands of years and survived the hundred-year mega droughts of the past.
Fish & Wildlife’s 2015 Fall Midwater Trawl demonstrates that, since 1967, populations of striped bass, Delta smelt, longfin smelt, American shad, splittail and threadfin shad have declined by 99.7, 98.3, 99.9, 97.7, 98.5 and 93.7 percent, respectively…
Since 1995, DWR and USBR have fully complied with Bay-Delta water quality objectives in only 8 of 21 years. The State Water Board has never taken an enforcement action for the thousands upon thousands of violations.
In addition, the State Board has routinely waived compliance with legally promulgated criteria explicitly enacted to protect fisheries and water quality during critical drought sequences. And the fishery agencies have consistently acquiesced in these actions.
For example, in 2014, the State Water Board reduced regulatory Delta outflow by 43% so they could increase water exports by 18%. In 2015, they reduced outflow by 78% in order to increase exports by 32%. In 2015, these changes shifted more than a million acre-feet from fisheries and water quality protection to agricultural use.
It should be noted, that Central Valley agricultural production has set new record highs in each of the drought years.
Failure to enforce temperature criteria on the upper Sacramento River led to the loss of 95% of winter-run, 98% of fall-run and virtually all of the spring-run Chinook salmon in 2014.”
Full Statement
Robert Wright
Senior counsel, Friends of the River – spoke on the State Water Board’s duty under the law and the EPA’s duties 916-442-3155
At present, the water for the exporters is taken at the south end of the Delta so the water provides environmental benefits throughout the Delta before being taken. The Water Fix Tunnels would take that water upstream, leading to enormous reductions of freshwater flows through the already imperiled Delta and worsen water quality violations including blue green algae.
The EPA explained that: “Water quality and aquatic life analyses in the SDEIS show that the proposed project may cause or contribute to violations of state water quality standards and significant degradation of waters of the U.S. . .” [p. 4]. Like the state agencies in the Flint catastrophe, the state agencies here are trying to ignore the red flags raised by the experts-the EPA- of a potential water quality disaster.
Full Statement
Barbara Barrigan-Parrilla
Executive director, Restore the Delta – spoke on the need for a new Bay Delta Water Quality Control Plan, upcoming hearings and what happens next 209-479-2053
“The members of the State Water Resources Control Board are extremely intelligent officials with a thorough understanding of science, water history, law, and California water management.  It is our belief that they do not want to set the course for destruction of the largest estuary on the West Coast of the Americas.  The question will be if they have the moral courage and fortitude to stand up to Governor Brown’s political push and the rewriting of state water history presented by Metropolitan Water District.  Ultimately, will they become heroes for protecting the public trust, the 1 million people of the Delta whose sole drinking water source is the Delta, our state’s iconic fisheries, the water starved San Francisco Bay, and California’s oldest agriculture economy?  Or will they capitulate and rubberstamp a project that will destroy the estuary and cannibalize California’s sustainable water future.”

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Oregon Militiaman Killed by Federal Agents.. 6 Arrested

Six people involved in the armed occupation of a Central Ore. wildlife refuge were arrested after a traffic stop during which shots were fired. Another unnamed individual was killed during the confrontation, the FBI and Oregon State Police announced Tuesday.
Authorities said that shots were exchanged during a traffic stop along Highway 395 around 4:25 p.m. local time. Police were carrying out a federal probable cause arrest for a number of people involved in the armed standoff at the Malheur Wildlife Refuge, which has been occupied since Jan. 2.
Five people were arrested at that time, including occupation leaders Ammon and Ryan Bundy. One person was killed during the exchange of gunfire; police said information about that person will not be released until they can be identified by the medical examiner’s office. Another of the arrested individuals was injured and taken to a local hospital, but has since been arrested and taken into custody.
A sixth person involved in the occupation, Joseph Donald O’Shaughnessy of Cottonwood, Ariz., was arrested about an hour and a half after the initial confrontation.
All of people arrested face federal felony charges for impeding federal officers.
In addition to O’Shaughnessy and the Bundy brothers, the FBI statement said that Brian Cavalier, Shawna Cox and Ryan Waylen Payne were arrested.
St. Charles Health System in Bend told Oregon Public Broadcasting that a helicopter had been dispatched to Harney County and will be transporting patients to its level II trauma center. The Harney County Hospital is on lockdown, as well as a section of Highway 395 near Burns, Ore.
Anthony Bosworth a Yakima, Wash., resident who has been at the Malheur Refuge, told OPB that Ammon Bundy was headed to a meeting in John Day, Ore., Tuesday, about 100 miles from the occupied refuge. Bundy never showed up in the city.
The arrests come after a more than three-week long standoff between the Bundys and their followers and local and federal law enforcement. The armed group seized the Malheur Refuge on Jan. 2 after participating in a march protesting the imprisonment of Oregon ranchers Dwight and Steven Hammond, who were convicted of committing arson on federal land.
After the march, Ammon Bundy urged rally-goers who wanted to “take a hard stand” to get in their trucks and follow him to the refuge, according to several people in attendance.
The occupiers say they aim to “take back” the federally-controlled land for the county and private use.
Ammon Bundy, 40, runs a business near Phoenix and describes his supporters as “militia men.” In 2014, his father Cliven Bundy spearheaded an armed standoff with federal agents in Nevada.
The occupation at the Malheur refuge has sparked a tense debate in this rural part of Oregon about land use and the power of the federal government.
Jason Patrick, a participant in the occupation who was at the Malheur refuge Tuesday night said that the arrests doesn’t change the occupiers’ demands. He wouldn’t say how many people remain at the refuge, or who else was with him.
“Right now, we’re doing fine,” he told one source by phone. “We’re just trying to figure out how a dead cowboy equals peaceful resolution.”