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Archive → July, 2013

Forestry 101

“Clearcutting” forests has become a no-no idea, a bad word with most people. Whether it was environmental advocates or ripped off landowners who said it was wrong, it’s not clear.

Nothing could be farther from the truth. “Select cut” forestry is usually the worst thing you can do, because it takes the best and leaves the rest. Worst-first is the by-line of sound forestry. Clearcutting removes a great deal of the forest canopy so that other trees and plants may grow.

It’s true that I have seen failed clearcutting, but out west, where the thin soils, steep slopes, and dry conditions leave forests at risk from too much canopy removal. Those conditions rarely apply to the northeast or the south.

Recently I contracted Lyme Disease, for the third or fourth time. It’s my guess that ticks are growing in number and area because forest fires have been artificially suppressed for so long. Short of controlled burns, clearcutting is as close as we can get to mimicking the cleansing effect of a forest fire.

If you have forest land and you want to manage the timber, don’t be afraid to clearcut it, if the trees there support that management tool.

Want to add beauty to the world?

If you want to add some beauty to the world, and who doesn’t, then do this simple thing: Let milkweed grow on your property.

Monarch butterflies follow the world’s most incredible migration, but they are increasingly challenged by unnecessary weed control and manicured lawns that eliminate milkweed.

Why milkweed became Public Enemy Weed #1 is probably lost to early 1900s history. But the negative association in most Americans’ minds keeps it suppressed far and wide.

In an urban and suburban environment, milkweed is no worse than the ailanthus (“tree of heaven”) growing everywhere, and it provides a home for beautiful butterflies that make our summers happier and more fulfilling.

So if you see a patch of milkweed growing on your back corner, please leave it. Beauty on wings will thank you, and that miraculous journey will continue for another year.

Disconnect between Democrat chiefs and braves on gas drilling

Interesting wrinkle hasn’t really bubbled up yet into the governor campaign. That is the odd policy adopted a month ago among state Democratic leaders to embrace a gas drilling moratorium.

While to my knowledge none of the Democratic candidates for governor have embraced this policy, only one that I know of has strongly repudiated it. That’s John Hanger.

Hanger recently wrote that “if you support environmental quality, you support gas drilling.”

While Hanger’s polling numbers are on the radar but low among a field of candidates so large that it looks like a Hubble photo of some huge constellation, his prospects are looking better and better. By hewing to a moderate, common sense set of policy positions, Hanger is increasing gathering followers. My understanding is that Hanger does not support more gun control, which is my litmus test for a serious candidate in either party.

Natural gas is about the only thing going on in Pennsylvania right now. And for the future, too. Prospective leaders like John Hanger get my respect for acknowledging that and not playing to fake fears.

Harrisburg Auction Does Well

With the moose head, elk rack, and bison skull in the back of my pickup truck, I can look past Guernsey’s poor organization that kept me and dozens of other buyers standing in line, in the heat, for no apparent reason.

Today’s bidding at the carousel on City Island was surprising. People were paying top dollar for every little item brought before them. Auctions typically have “nests” of buyers who are interested in particular types of things. Today, bidding was highly competitive across the entire audience and from all corners of the room.

Once again, Steve Reed may have screwed up, but it’s rare that screw-ups get redeemed so well. The cit
-tay is raking in big cash. Ironic as it is that the warehouse full of artifacts is literally in the shadow of the anchor, errr, incinerator.

I’m sad to see this part of our city’s history end. But if the address on the crate holding my moose is any indication, it’s a period and way of doing business we need to improve on in the future. The crate says :”To Brian Kelley, Museum, S 19th Street…,” which is the exact location of the city’s incinerator. What kind of a loony bin was being run here?

Harrisburg’s Wild West Auction

Internationally famous as my city is, it’s not because we were one of the first municipalities to declare bankruptcy. Rather, it is due to our former mayor’s penchant for collecting western frontier artifacts on the public dime.

Derided as a careless buyer with Other People’s Money, former mayor Steve Reed was hounded out of office for his investment of about $8.1 million of public funds in these western artifacts.

I had no idea how many he had purchased, and how keen his eye was, until I visited the warehouse where they were all stored last week. My God, the place was the proverbial and de facto Wild West Museum that Mayor Reed had long sought to build.

Everything in it was incredible. One of a kind, extremely rare, irreplaceable iconic artifacts symbolic and piercingly representative of our nation’s western frontier experience.

Mayor Reed was an incredible mayor, up until the point where he wasn’t. It took an international recession to take him down, and expose his over-leverage of Harrisburg. However, he was in good company in both the public and private spheres. And there is no taking away from Reed that he had one hell of a good eye for hostorically important artifacts. One of his former sellers was in town the other day at the auction, actually buying back the items he had originally sold to Reed.

He credited Reed with being a highly informed, careful buyer.

Allen Pinkerton’s personal detective badge just sold for $37,500 plus 25% buyer’s premium. A Dodge City Marshal’s badge just sold for $4,000. A historic Wells Fargo trunk sold for $15,000. These are historic, one-of-a-kind artifacts, bringing in commensurate prices.

I say job well done, Mayor.

As for me, I have done my part and bid on a multitude of items, only to lose at every turn. After bidding on Canada Bill Jones’s nasty little push dagger (Jones is credited with coining the phrase “But it’s the only game in town”), and losing, I did win a sad old elk antler, which had purportedly served as a hat rack in some western bar. But now I own a piece of the city history. It’s good enough for me, and the icing on the cake is that the city is raking in millions of dollars from the auction. The stuff Reed bought years ago was so valuable that it has increased tremendously in value.

UPDATE: I have just posted the winning bid for Steve Reed’s Wild West Moose, and I am so pleased. I am naming it Stephen.

Sunday Hunting in Pennsylvania

Hunters United for Sunday Hunting (www.huntsunday.com) filed a federal lawsuit yesterday, seeking to compel Pennsylvania to allow the Pennsylvania Game Commission the authority to establish Sunday hunting for various species beyond the crows, coyotes, and foxes presently allowed.

The merits are enormous, the case against it weak. It comes down to good government applying consistent laws, a hallmark of democracy. Religious freedom is also part of the suit, since the ban on Sunday hunting is religiously motivated and prevents equal participation by all citizens.

What is sad is hearing pro-gun, pro-hunting folks use anti-gun, anti-hunting arguments to prevent Sunday hunting, as if it does not come back to hurt them.

Here is my position: If you hunt and own guns, then you should desire a greater hunter recruitment rate to replace the people we are losing to age. More hunters means a stronger Second Amendment advocacy pool. Otherwise, if we fail to make up the gun owners we lose, then the gun owners lose political power, and watch their rights slip away as laws change and they are powerless to stand up.

When staying positive is challenging

Witnessing the lynch mob and witch hunt surrounding George Zimmerman, and the supposed adults leading it, and the hatred, racism, and bigotry on display at the public events purportedly against racism and bigotry and for peace and justice, it is hard to stay positive.

After all, a lynch mob is exactly the opposite of peace and justice.

What makes me so sad is that black people still inspire me. As the product of a home where racism was not only absent, it was forbidden, and where everyone of all walks of life, all skin colors, and all faiths sat at our table, I grew up with a positive fascination with blacks and a passion for their success.

To me, American blacks are the modern equivalent of the ancient Israelites. With the legacy of slavery propelling them forward, blacks were supposed to be integrated into every facet of American life, business, law, medicine, politics, you name it. Very much an American story, from rags to riches, from poverty to great material comfort, and so on. In other words, blacks embody the potential of the American dream, and that is something so many fail to understand: Whites very much want blacks to succeed. Because it is a reflection on the promise of America, a reflection on all of us.

But in my lifetime, I have seen blacks going backwards, into self-segregation, into naked, open, raw racism and bigotry against so many other groups. Hatred is justified as “justice.”

So very few of the white people I know have any inclination towards racism. Skin color means nothing to 99% of the whites I know (and whites are most of the people I know, so I know their views). And yet whites are still accused of oppressing and hurting their fellow Americans because of skin color. It’s simply not true. In fact it is racist to accuse people of racism because of their skin color.

What’s sad about this is that eventually people are going to become worn out with being accused of something they are not. Calling someone a racist will lose its meaning. Maybe that is inevitable in a country that is rapidly turning brown, but it shouldn’t happen because the accusation becomes so hollow that it ceases to mean anything.

I still hold hope that things will get better. That requires everyone to have an honest discussion about these issues.

The sad irony of Zimmerman’s right to self-defense

The sad irony of George Zimmerman having a right to self-defense is that now roving gangs of thugs are beating Americans on the street in the name of “justice for Trayvon,” while others call for lynching of anyone “white.”

So because a jury considered the facts, someone now wants to go hurt and kill people of different skin color? Does anyone else see the sick irony and hypocrisy? Al Sharpton admits that Zimmerman cannot be charged on “the merits,” which is to say that he is innocent of having done something wrong, but he wants him charged nonetheless.

America is witnessing an orgy of feelings and anger. But these are misplaced feelings, it is unjustified anger.

Attacking and hurting people because of their skin color is racist, and here we have people supposedly opposed to racism doing just that.

This is not good, my fellow Americans, not good at all.

George Zimmerman’s right of self-defense

Maybe I should not be surprised, but I am:

People calling for George Zimmerman to be lynched by a mob or executed by some nameless gangster, dissatisfied with a jury’s decision…the human right of self-defense thrown out the window…people wanting to believe what they want to believe, uninterested in the photos of a bleeding, battered Zimmerman but very interested in the far-outdated photos of a youthful, innocent-looking Trayvon Martin…people decrying “racism” when the only racism evident was Martin’s “creepy-ass Cracker” comment to his girlfriend, immediately followed up by his life-threatening physical assault on Zimmerman…a media full of people willing to edit 911 recordings, or describe the Hispanic Zimmerman as “white,” to push an agenda and create an impression contrary to the facts….this case has been about everything but what it was about: Self-defense.

Zimmerman was attacked. Lying on his back and taking a savage beating from a large male straddling his chest, he pulled a legal gun and killed his attacker. That is the way life is supposed to work.

Had the skin colors been reversed, Zimmerman would now be a hero to many.

Self defense is what this is all about. Nothing else. I am pleased that the right of self-defense has been upheld. It is the most basic of all human rights.

Do you believe in your private property rights?

Isn’t it intriguing that the establishment wings of both the Democrats and the Republicans believe that your private property rights are actually theirs?

Several weeks ago, the Pennsylvania Democratic Party took a position on natural gas drilling in deep shales, saying that a moratorium on “fracking” is needed. That adds up to the government taking away from you the right and ability to develop a resource on your property, without compensating you and without demonstrating good cause.

When I inquired of a bewildered Democratic operative whether or not the proposed fracking moratorium would include nitrogen, or be limited to just water, he said “I don’t know, I don’t know. I cannot believe they did this. It makes no sense.” To be sure, it’s an indefensible and politically suicidal position. Unsurprisingly, I don’t believe any of the Democrat gubernatorial candidates have adopted this fatally flawed position.

This week, Republican Governor Tom Corbett signed into law a bill that, aside from two deadly sentences, was an otherwise fine solution to a lot of outstanding, unresolved problems associated with deep gas extraction.

Two deadly sentences are an issue, however, because they basically strip landowners\ oil, gas and mineral owners of their ability to negotiate new leases when the prior one has ended. The new law is a theft from you and a gift to a select industry. Gas is a good and necessary industry, for sure, but no more deserving of a free ride on someone else’s dime than you or I.

The arguments made in favor of what I would call ‘forced apportionment’ were ridiculous and laughable, except that so many private property rights have just been in effect taken and handed over to industry, so it is not funny. Apportionment is a term never used before in Pennsylvania OGM, and the 11th-hour two-sentence amendment to the bill lacks a definition of it. Surprise, surprise.

The worst argument is that by being forced into a “pool” of landowners, basically a fragmented production unit, this new law is guaranteeing that landowners will get paid (!). The state minimum payment, by the way. Never mind that you are due that payment already, and you’d prefer to renegotiate an expired lease on your own, thank you very much.

My sense is that these two sentences could cost Governor Tom Corbett his governorship and several lawmakers their seats. State representative Garth Everett and state senator Gene Yaw were the sponsors of the two sentences. Both are from Lycoming County, a place where private property rights are still held dearly and natural gas is plentiful.

How sad that the establishment wing of the Republican Party is so close to the Democrats that they adopt policies that are practically the same….

Next up, the courts will undoubtedly weigh in on this new law. Let’s hope they save the Republicans from themselves.