Former Nevada Governor Helps Embattled Ranching Families

Since the 1950s, Nevada cattle rancher’s grazing rights have been reduced by more than 50 percent and sheep grazing rights by more than 90 percent. Now former Nevada Governor Jim Gibbons is helping the Tomeras and Filippini families turn their cattle out south of Battle Mountain, as they fight the Bureau of Land Management’s latest decision.

“Most people don’t have to fight to make a living. These folks do,” Gibbons said.

BLM District Manager Doug Furtado told the ranching families in February that he was not going to allow any grazing on the Mount Lewis pasture of the Argenta Allotment because of drought concerns. His decision left the families facing financial ruin.

On May 23rd, the BLM agreed to allow a partial turn out of the ranchers’ cows. The BLM termed the agreement temporary, claiming it would have formal grazing licenses prepared by the first week of June.

However there is concern over the BLM’s past history when it comes to temporary agreements.

In 1964 the BLM forced the ranchers on Mount Lewis to cut their cattle and sheep grazing by 50 percent, even though half of the land was privately-owned, as are all of the water rights. The ranchers had been grazing their cattle on the mountain since 1862, two years before Nevada became a state.

In the 1980s Nevada bought out the Tomera Ranches in Elko County to build the South Fork Reservoir. The Tomera family then bought ranches on Mount Lewis, where they and the Filippini’s, have been grazing ever since.

The Tomeras own 80 percent of the grazing rights and most of the water on the mountain. They also own more than 80 springs, 12 wells and 183 miles of streams and have always paid their grazing fees.

The federal government owns no water and only 44 percent of the land, yet they tell the ranchers when and how they can graze,” said Elko County Commissioner Grant Gerber. “It is an intolerable situation. Why should the federal government be able to control an individual’s private land?”

In February the BLM informed the Tomeras it was cutting 2014 their grazing rights by 100 percent, leaving them no place to graze 1,800 head of cattle. This was after the families built an $80,000, 16-mile fence in an attempt to satisfy the BLM’s demands — all to no avail.

The current closure led to the ‘Grass March,’ a group of cowboys and girls carrying petitions to Governor Brian Sandoval, seeking Furtado’s removal from office and the lifting of restrictions by the BLM.

“You have my assurance I will continue to speak with the BLM as well as the Department of the Interior to ensure all Nevadans are heard,” Sandoval said in response to receiving the petitions.

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Anti-BLM Petitions Given to Nevada Governor

About 70 riders on horseback blocked traffic in Nevada’s capital city’s main highway to deliver petitions against the BLM over grazing reductions on federal land to Governor Brian Sandoval. The rally ended a weeklong, 300-mile trek orchestrated by Elko County Commissioner Grant Gerber that began on Memorial Day.

Gerber said the horseback protest, dubbed the “Grass March,” was modeled after Gandhi’s “Salt March” across India to protest British control of the salt supply in 1930, which he likened to BLM control of Nevada’s public lands.

“Across the board I would like to see the land transferred to the state of Nevada,” said Gerber, whose family began ranching in eastern Nevada in the mid-1800s. “Then people closer to the issue could make the decisions.”

Several dozen ranchers from around northern Nevada met with Sandoval in Carson City, who assured them he would take their concerns over grazing allotments in Battle Mountain to the highest officials in the federal agency.

“This is what makes Nevada great,” Sandoval said to the crowd packed in his reception area. “The fact that we’re all one family…that you feel you can come to Carson City and present and air your concerns.”

“I’m very proud of the efforts you’ve made,” he added, “I’m very humbled and honored that you would do it and very respectful of all of you being here today.”

The federal government owns more than half of the land in the 11 Western states plus Alaska, and for more than a century, ranchers have turned their cattle loose on many of those public lands in return for a grazing fee. But that arrangement has become more complicated since the rise of the environmental movement, when agencies like the BLM started having to manage lands for endangered species and green groups began pushing to rein in livestock grazing.

Federal officials claim they aren’t overly swayed by environmental groups, though the Western Watersheds Project group has recently lobbied the BLM to remove cattle from public lands, saying they cause damage to streams and other sensitive areas.

“We get pressure from a lot of places,” said Amy Lueders, the BLM’s director for Nevada, whose agency manages 71-percent of the state’s land area.

In Battle Mountain, the troubles for ranchers started when the local BLM office began implementing a statewide drought-management plan in 2013.

“The concern is, you want to make sure it isn’t grazed to bare dirt,” said Lueders.

Gerber disputes Lueders’ claim, “Without notice and without hearing, (they’re) reaching out and hurting the ranchers by not allowing them to turn out their cattle on the grass which is 18 inches to two feet tall.”

Meanwhile, Nevada ranchers signed a temporary agreement allowing them to graze their cattle on BLM lands, with strict limits in place on the amount of grass the cows can consume. If those requirements aren’t met, the cattle will be ordered off the land.

Ranchers worry the limits are “unattainable,” and they are pushing for the removal of Doug Furtado, the BLM district manager.

“The problem we have in the BLM district battle mountain is clearly Doug Furtado,” says Assemblyman Ira Hansen, “and that’s why there’s been a concerted effort to remove him from the position.

“The BLM will respond to the political will of the State of Nevada represented through the Governor,” added Hansen.

Furtado said he has tried to work with the ranchers and blamed “outside forces” for agitating the situation. He said he expected to sign a final agreement allowing the renewed grazing for 2014 within two weeks.

Pershing County rancher Mike Gottschalk summed it up best: “First they came to save the spotted owl, and we did not speak out and thousands of timber jobs were lost. Then they came to save the tortoise, and we did not speak out and all the Clark County ranchers were destroyed. Then they came to save the horses, and we did not speak out and our ranges are now overrun with them. Now they are coming to save the sage hen, and remove all the ranchers, recreationists and sportsmen. It is time we all stand up for our rights and speak out, or there soon will be no one left to speak for us.”

Bowe Bergdahl Freed by Captors

An American soldier held captive for nearly five years by terrorists during the Afghanistan war, has been released. The U.S. Special Forces extracted U.S Army Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl, from his captors during a peaceful handover in eastern Afghanistan.

In exchange for Bergdahl’s release, five detainees at Guantanamo Bay will be released to Qatar. This will not set well with veterans.

The Idaho native was deployed to Afghanistan in May 2009 and captured by the Taliban on June 30, 2009, in Paktika province. Officials believes Bergdahl has been held for the bulk of his captivity in Pakistan.

It remains unclear when he was moved back to Afghanistan.

Redskins Use Twitter to Beat Back Harry Reid

Oh, oh — the Washington Redskins have launched a Twitter attack on Senator Harry Reid in their effort to keep the team’s name. The Redskins instructed fans to tweet Reid to show their “RedskinsPride” and “tell him what the team means to you.”

Reid said last month that Redskins owner Dan Snyder should “do what is morally right” and change the name. Snyder has vowed never to change the name.

The Associated Press is doing its level best to make it sound like the campaign is back-firing, saying: “Many told Reid they support his efforts to change the name.

After looking through, there are a number of comments like: “I DO NOT have an issue with the logo” and “I wonder how much money the Oneida gave old Harry Reid?!”

Last week, half of the Senate, lead by Reid, wrote letters to the National Football League urging a change, calling the name is a racist slur. The team’s name of ‘Redskins’ is in honor of one of the team’s first coaches, Lone Star Dietz.

The odd thing is — neither of the Koch Brothers own any part of the team.

Your Local School District — America’s Real ‘Food Desert’

First lady Michelle Obama put out a call against a Republican proposal that allows a delay in enforcing her new school lunch standards.

“The last thing we can afford to do right now is play politics with our kids’ health,” she complained. “Now is not the time to roll back everything we have worked for.’’

The House Appropriations Committee announced last week it plans to let cash-strapped schools opt out of the nutrition regulations via waiver. The change would come through the 2015 agriculture spending bill.

Brian Rell, spokesman for Congressman Robert B. Aderholt, who sponsored House legislation that would grant qualifying school districts an opportunity to postpone enforcement of the new rules fired back

“These new federal regulations should not drive local school nutrition programs under water,’’ said Rell, “This temporary one-year waiver simply provides them a lifeline,” he said, noting that only districts that lost money in part of the past year would qualify for the waiver.

Leaders of the School Nutrition Association (SNA), which had supported the new school menu standards when they were approved in 2010 as part of the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act, also responded.

“SNA does not see the waiver as a rollback but as a way to hit the pause button,” said Leah Schmidt, the president of the group,

A pause is necessary, Schmidt added, because many schools are overwhelmed by the new requirements and are seeing dramatically increased waste and cost, while sales decline.

“Can we shift the conversation to what we need to do to help school districts that are suffering?” Schmidt asked.

The first lady says she has heard a different story from several past presidents of the SNA despite an SNA survey finding about four percent of its members will either leave the program this year, or are considering doing so.

“Students want it, families want it — and they are participating,” said David Binkle, deputy director of Food Services for the Los Angeles Unified School District. “It is no coincidence that our test scores are up, attendance is up and graduation rates are up,”

Meanwhile, the Laguna Beach Unified School District, in Southern California, is the latest district to rebel against the federal healthy lunch program.

Debra Appel, food services supervisor at the school, said, “It’s not the chicken nuggets, it’s not the popcorn chicken. It’s not the corn dogs and stuff that the kids really liked.”

The USDA, which administers the program, says about 100,000 schools have signed up for the program — fewer than expected.

“USDA continues to provide additional flexibility and technical assistance to schools as they all now work to offer healthier meals,” said Dr. Janey Thornton, deputy under-secretary for Food Nutrition and Consumer Services at the USDA, released in a statement.

Under the program, lunches must include fresh fruit, vegetables, and whole grains. And there’s a calorie cap: 850 for high school kids, 700 for middle school, and 650 for elementary school. In Kentucky, students thought the healthy food “tastes like vomit.”

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has already rolled back one of the standards about pasta — that only whole-grain can be used — after finding that the food fell apart when cooked in large volumes. A 2013 report released by the Government Accountability Office also found a number of problems with the National School Lunch Program.

The report, presented to a subcommittee of the House Education and Workforce Committee, detailed visits to eight school districts to see the impact of the regulations.

“Although the eight districts GAO visited expressed support for the improvements to the nutritional quality of school lunch, they reported additional challenges meeting the new requirements, such as student acceptance, food waste, costs, and participation,” the report states.

It notes cheeseburgers being removed from one district’s elementary and middle school lunch menus because adding cheese to the burger “would have made it difficult to stay within the weekly meat maximums.” Another district switched from shredded cheese to cheese sauce because the liquid cheese “does not count as a meat alternate, while another school district switched from whole grain chips to potato chips because “the potato chip did not count as a grain.”

The report also found some schools had trouble maintaining healthy options for students.

“…the [School Food Authorities] reported adding pudding to certain high school menus to bring the menus into compliance with the calorie minimum…added gelatin, ice cream, or condiments such as butter, jelly, ranch dressing or cheese sauce to become compliant…increased the amount of sugar, sodium, or fat in the meal, potentially undercutting the federal law’s goal of improving the nutritional quality of lunches.”

The GAO also noted the difficulty in complying with the calorie maximums for students based on grade, as students from varying grades use the same cafeteria lines.

“…Athletic coaches expressed concerns that student athletes were hungrier after school than they were in previous years and staff reported that more students were distracted during the final period of the school day than in previous years.”

Another problem is cost as student chose to boycott the lunchroom.

The Fairfield, Connecticut school district raised its lunch prices by 10-cents to deal with the changes.  Similarly, Portsmouth, New Hampshire schools increased their prices by 25 cents per meal, citing “dwindling participation” in the lunch program.

A New York district lost $100,000 last school year in its lunch program while an Indiana district lost $300,000.

Add to this the fact that Orthodox Jewish schools are finding it difficult to abide by the guidelines. That’s because the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act requires the serving of certain foods that some might consider non-kosher.

The Jewish newspaper The Forward which examined the issue reports:

“Their reason has nothing to do with the taste of spinach, kale, or cabbage. It is because these and other leafy greens might be infested with tiny insects that would render them non-kosher.”

It’s not only vegetables  posing a problem for Orthodox schools, but the grain-based food limitation also contradicts Jewish law as well.

“…students require a certain amount of bread, usually one slice. But that would take up all the grain allocation for a meal and would not allow other grain-based foods on the lunch plate.”

But Obama remains a big proponent.

“Because of this act…32 million children get more of the nutrition they need to learn and grow and be successful and I do hope it’s delicious — we’re working on that, yes, indeed,” Obama stated.

With public school students using #ThanksMichelle to tweet photos of their skimpy, stomach-turning school lunches, the Obama’s girls, who attend Sidwell Friends School, eat lunches from menus designed by chefs. Including chicken coconut soup, local butternut squash soup, crusted tilapia. They also eat foods their mother considers to be junk like meatball subs, BBQ wings and ice cream.

Oddly enough, Sidwell Friends School has also been rated as having one of the top rated School Lunch programs in America.

Poetic Justice for the Second Amendment

World-renowned author and poet Maya Angelou passed away at the age of 86. Lauded by Progressives as  a civil rights champion, an education reformer and supporter of President Barack Obama, there is one thing you may not know about her: Angelou was a gun owner and she used it to defend herself.

Interviewed by Time magazine in 2013, Angelou spoke of her experience.

Time: Did you inherit your mother’s fondness for guns?

Angelou: I like to have guns around. I don’t like to carry them.

Time: Have you ever fired your weapon?

Angelou: Of course!

Time: At a person?

Angelou: I’ve fired it period, not at a person I hope!

She continued, ‘I was in my house in North Carolina. It was fall. I heard someone walking on the leaves. And somebody actually turned the knob.’

So I said, ‘Stand four feet back because I’m going to shoot now!’ Boom! Boom!

The police came by and said, ‘Ms. Angelou, the shots came from inside the house.’

I said, ‘Well, I don’t know how that happened.’

Happily, everything turned out okay for her. But don’t be surprised if the next ‘bang’ you hear are the minds of the anti-gun lobby popping.