To The Point

by Caren Cowan

When Pigs Fly For Real … 

One of former Governor Gary Johnson’s (now Libertarian presidential candidate) favorite sayings when faced with pressure to be less than fiscal was “when pigs fly.” If he happens to get elected he is going to have to come up with a new one. Pot-bellied pigs must be granted passage on airplanes if they are used for “emotional support” by their owners, states the Department of Transportation’s (DOT) draft manual on equity for the disabled in air travel, according to a web report by cnsnews.com.

The DOT published its “Nondiscrimination on the Basis of Disability in Air Travel: Draft Technical Assistance Manual” in the Federal Register on July 5, providing guidance that allows swine on airplanes if they are determined to be service animals. The manual is designed to “help carriers and indirect carriers and their employees/contractors that provide services or facilities to passengers with disabilities, assist those passengers in accordance with” the Air Carrier Access Act. The manual is open for public comments until October 3.

Under the “Service Animal” section, the department lays out a scenario for airline carriers entitled “Example 1.” The manual states: “A passenger arrives at the gate accompanied by a pot-bellied pig. She claims that the pot-bellied pig is her service animal. What should you do?”

“Generally, you must permit a passenger with a disability to be accompanied by a service animal,” reads the manual. “However, if you have a reasonable basis for questioning whether the animal is a service animal, you may ask for some verification.”

The manual instructs airline carriers and their employees to begin by asking questions about the animal, such as, “What tasks or functions does your animal perform for you?” or “What has its training been?”

“If you are not satisfied with the credibility of the answers to these questions or if the service animal is an emotional support or psychiatric service animal, you may request further verification,” the guidebook states. “You should also call a CRO [Complaints Resolution Official] if there is any further doubt as to whether the pot-bellied pig is the passenger’s service animal.”

If the answers are satisfactory, pot-bellied pigs, which can weigh as much as 300 pounds, must be accepted aboard the plane.

“Finally, if you determine that the pot-bellied pig is a service animal, you must permit the service animal to accompany the passenger to her seat provided the animal does not obstruct the aisle or present any safety issues and the animal is behaving appropriately in a public setting,” the manual states.

In its definition of service animal, the DOT includes creatures that provide “emotional support.” The manual defines a service animal as an “animal individually trained to perform functions to assist a person with a disability; Animal that has been shown to have the innate ability to assist a person with a disability…or Emotional support or psychiatric service animal.”

“Be aware,” it says, “that people who have disabilities that are not apparent may travel with emotional support, psychiatric service, or other service animals.”

Though pot-bellied pigs are permissible, the DOT forbids some animals from aircraft. “As a U.S. carrier, you are not required to carry certain unusual service animals in the aircraft cabin such as ferrets, rodents, spiders, snakes and other reptiles,” it states.

However, miniature horses and monkeys, which the manual describes as “commonly used service animals,” are also permitted.

On a case-by-case basis, the DOT says, animals can be turned away if they are “too large or heavy to be accommodated in the aircraft cabin; would pose a direct threat to the health and safety of others; would cause a significant disruption in cabin service; or would be prohibited from entering a foreign country at the aircraft’s destination.”

I really wish I could make this stuff up

Just as incredible… not so amusing.

The cover of the May issue of the Stockman depicted what was to come with this year’s fire season. We were wrong. What has come was much worse than could have been imagined.

All you have had to do is turn on the television or radio for the last two months to hear about the catastrophic wildfires that are devastating the land that we love and that our livestock and wildlife depend upon, and for well over 500 westerners, their homes. There have been several human lives lost in these fires as well.

The nation owes a debt of gratitude to the brave men and women who have risked their lives to fight these fires – almost with one hand tied behind their backs. It was all too easy to see the pain of those poor incident commanders who had to stand before the media being peppered with questions as to when the fire was going to be stopped. They were exhausted, frustrated and perhaps even fearful because those were questions that no one could answer.

Two of the worst fires here in New Mexico so far started on Wilderness, so federal agencies, under their current “no management” policies; just let them burn… until it was too late to do anything to stop them. It is no stretch of the imagination that hundreds of millions of dollars have been spent in the last two and a half months on fire suppression. It will cost five or ten times that to rehabilitate the destruction of the lands burned. Then the rains come and wash everything away, destroying the lifelines of water that keep us all alive.

This lunacy has got to stop. It hasn’t been a matter of “if” these fires will start, it is WHEN. In his message, Rex talked about the tremendous turn out of elected officials and candidates that came to the Mid Year Meeting at the Inn of the Mountain Gods.

We need the people we elect this November who will insure that the bureaucracy understands that while fire might be a “tool” to manage land, calling it a tool infers that someone is in control of the tool. Letting a fire burn, no matter where it is, in the hot, dry, windy days of early summer is not using a tool.

We must use every opportunity to educate anyone who will listen that without real management that includes road building, timber harvest and grazing, the “playgrounds” some envision of the West will be nothing more than charcoal and dust. Many species won’t be endangered. They will be extinct.

There are those that say that some of the fire is good because it is burning out overgrown vegetation that has long needed removal to have a healthy forest, and they are right. But instead of just doing that good, these fires are burning at temperatures “…so hot in some areas that it incinerated almost all of the trees on the landscape, replacing what was once ponderosa pine habitat with a barren, blackened moonscape, said Craig Allen, a research ecologist with the U.S. Geological Survey (quote from Aspen Times, June 26, 2012).

In a June 5, 2012, Albuquerque Journal story, forest fire/climate expert Tony Westerling of the University of California made the oxymoronic statement “… that a century of human forest management has played a role in the recent fires with grazing and fire suppression leading to woods choked with increasingly vulnerable fuel.” Allen echoed the sentiment in the Aspen Times story.

Is it only me that finds “overgrazing” and “choked woods” to be diametrically opposed? I know, they mean that grazing has removed grass leading to more forbs – they are still wrong.

Frank Lowenstein, climate adaptation strategy leader for The Nature Conservancy, was right when he endorsed the idea of creating lower-density forests, where trees don’t have to compete as much for water and light. With lower-density forests, “you won’t see everything incinerated” by fires, he said. (Aspen Times)

You will also see grass and a better environment for wildlife and livestock alike.

What most “environmentalists” are desperately trying to do is blame climate change (global warming) for these terrible fires and blame grazing for climate change. If I were responsible for the havoc litigation and less than informed policy decisions, I would be looking for someone to blame, too.

The company you keep…

One of the old adages we grew up with was “you are known by the company you keep.” Our parents and grandparents were trying to make sure we didn’t hang out with people who would get us into trouble.

The social networking site Facebook brings a whole new meaning to that statement. In attempt to work on that education I mentioned, the New Mexico Cattle Growers’ staff has worked diligently over the last many months to develop more than 5,000 “friends” on Facebook. When you max out at 5,000, anyone who wants to be your “friend” must become a “subscriber” where they can see what you post, but cannot communicate – at least that’s what I think it means. NMCGA has over 1,060 subscribers creating a reach of over 6,000 people, most of whom have the ability to share information with all their other “friends.” Facebook also lets you see who your “friends” have for “friends” and will usually show you several when a post is made.

NMCGA has used Facebook to keep attention on the fire situation in the West, and if you visit the page you will see many, many images of the fires that we have shared from someone else or posted ourselves. NMCGA has added comments to the photos, added information on federal legislation regarding forest management and fire, and put up anything else that seemed to add to the story.

Lively debates can occur on the site and there is often good information exchanged. I cannot say that I know each of NMCGA’s friends or subscribers but I have made some real friends via Facebook and we ARE getting our message out.

Another feature of the site is the ability to “unfriend” people. That needs to be used judiciously and most people have been offed as friends due to the foul language or photographs they have posted that are simply inappropriate, at least the way I was raised.

The temptation to unfriend those who disagree with me is also great. That feeling when, after we posted material on the federal catastrophic fire legislation, merely asking our friends to encourage their congressional representative to sponsor the bill, one “friend” took issue. He not only stated that NMCGA was supporting the legislation only so that its members could overgraze, but that the Association is “a majority of ignorant, greedy, racists bigots!” And, oh by the way, we are all Republicans, too.

I didn’t need to get too upset because in only a few minutes several folks took him on. The other part that became interesting is to see who this guy’s (he is no gentleman) other friends are. They are in high places.

Might not hurt to check and see who your Facebook friends are.

That would have been a different life

Not a statement I made, but one of a college roommate and life-long friend as we reminisced following the celebration of life of my college beau who left us way too soon. Reed White was a barrel of laughs and the life of every party. He had a passion for living and never missed an opportunity to have a good time or to lend a helping hand to someone in need.

It really didn’t matter if you needed the shirt off his back, for him to drive you to a rodeo hundreds of miles away or for him to sit by your, or even your brother’s, hospital bed during healing. He was just as liberal in using friends’ couches and eating all the ice cream in your freezer.

I was horrified to learn one morning on a visit home, when Reed slept on the couch, that Uncle Bill and Aunt Cordy had had quite a discussion as they came into Grandmother’s house late the night before on whether or not this was “a new one or the last one.”

Reed was never Grandmother’s favorite… he didn’t tuck his shirt in to come to the kitchen table or feel the need to put shoes on for meals. That was when I decided that I could bring Jesus home and he wouldn’t have suited because he had long hair and wore sandals.

Reed did meet my first criteria for a mate in that he was an extraordinary dancer AND loved to dance. He never met a kid or a dog that he didn’t like. One dog was never enough, there needed to be two.

Alas, being the designated driver for the life of the party worn thin and it became clear that Reed was not marriage material (I am not claiming that this is one of my attributes either) and it was time to move on. But after some awkward encounter as other people came into our lives, Reed and I stayed good friends. He was always the guy who could tell you where everyone we ever knew together was – and probably had seen them recently. We didn’t see each other often, but I always knew he was there if I needed him.

I miss him, as does anyone whose life he ever touched. n