17 February 2016

Historic Longhorn Occurs at Valentine Livestock Market

A distinctive Texas longhorn with origins associated with a cattle herd with decades of legacy recently occurred at the Valentine Livestock Market.

The large and lively steer of expressive coloration was sold February 11th during a Thursday weigh-up sale. It weighed 1420 pounds, and was purchased for $284, or 20 cents per pound, according to market records.

A US brand was obvious on its left rear hip. This is the mark used for the longhorn herd that was formerly at the Fort Niobrara National Wildlife Refuge.

The animal was immense, with a magnificent set of horns gracing its about six foot stature. While at the market it was notably cantankerous, resulting in an obvious awareness of its presence in one pen or another. Its antics also elicited some "funning" by pen workers on sale day, as it seemed to act in response to the red coloration of a coat. During some other times while constricted among the stock pens, it could be relatively calm.

This steer was taken from its home on the range to a pen at the livestock market, upon delivery for sale by a rancher of southeast Cherry county, westward from Brownlee. It had been kept in a pasture amidst other ranch bulls, according to its former owner. The estimated age was 12-14 years, he said. It was bought as a calf of the year during a longhorn sale at Fort Niobrara refuge.

This steer may have been one of the last longhorns born at the refuge, according to historic details available from numerous sources.

The last longhorn calf crop at the refuge was in 2000. They were branded June 4th, according to historic articles and records. At the last annual auction in October, a variety of longhorns from the herd were sold, including all of the bull and heifer calves. It cost, on average, $663 to purchase a bull calf.

Later in the month, a memorandum of understanding denoted those longhorns to be transferred from U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service ownership to the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission. No calves were included.

In mid-November 2000, the remaining herd with origins dating to the mid-1930s, were moved in a great and famous overland drive from the refuge east of Valentine to Fort Robinson state park.

Since the herd was gone from the Valentine area in 2000, the steer at the market was at least 15 years old, and may have been 16 this coming spring, if not older.

On February 15th, this iconic longhorn - along with other sold cattle - were loaded on a semi-truck trailer and departed Valentine, with Texas the destination.

February Weekend Birds at Valentine

Records of bird sightings kept during the weekend of the Great Backyard Bird Count indicate the typical birds of the late winter season at Valentine. There was not a great variety observed in the area, most notably around the Mill Pond and city park during the very variable weather of the count weekend. Despite the low diversity, there was still a lot of bird activity.

The most prominent fowl were the skeins of flying Canada Goose, with hundreds congregating at the Mill Pond, spending the night on the ice near the always not frozen Minnechaduza Creek. They venture northward daily, usually an hour or two after sunrise, to places where there is apparently ample food. Others seemed to be flying in from southward places, adding to the throng.

At the pond during the weekend were six Mallard sitting on the ice.

Early on Saturday, the 13th, an adult Bald Eagle soared above the pond, searching for its meal of the day. It certainly was not flying around to get a good view of the cattle in the Bull Bash pens.

The remainder of the bird life seen during the count days are regular seasonal residents.

The tally included the Red-tailed Hawk at the park. The usual Rock Dove within Valentine especially linger about the livestock market. Some Eurasian Collared Dove are especially vocal, and are notably the first heralds of spring, with some obviously cooing along north Main street, as they establish a breeding season home with their mate.

Red-bellied Woodpecker are always heard in a vivacious manner on one tree snag or another. Add to the tally, the Downy Woodpecker, Hairy Woodpecker. Northern Flicker, Blue Jay and flying boisterous American Crow.

There were about a dozen Cedar Waxwing enjoying a seed source within the city boundaries as the weekend was starting.

Small yet expressive Black-capped Chickadee are usually heard saying “hello” when heard and are a cherry resident. A similar tree-bark feeder are the White-breasted Nuthatch which is a prevalent neighbor, being seen or heard at nearly every locality visited during weekend hikes.

A bunch of American Robins were obvious within town at the start of the weekend.

Additional species noted were are the still gathered House Sparrow, itinerant House Finch, American Goldfinch at the feeder on the 400 block of north Main Street, and the darting Dark-eyed Junco. A single, appreciated Northern Cardinal lingered around the Mill Pond. This red bird has not been heard singing, so its spring perspective remains to be heard by an attentive bird watcher.

Warmer weather brought an Eastern Bluebird on February 17th.

12 February 2016

Initial Assessment of Cherry County Document Storage and Conditions

Prepared by James E. Ducey for the Cherry County Commissioner meeting on February 9, 2016 [and as copies of the single page document were provided to each commissioner, with an ensuing discussion during the morning of the meeting at the county building on Main street]

A quick review was done of Cherry County documents stored in the basement of the county building was done January 29th by Jim Ducey and Betty Dougherty, the gracious county assessor. About thirty minutes were spent looking at the material to get an initial sense of the historic material present and the storage conditions.

There are many stored items of obvious historic importance, including:
* Personal assessment records, grouped by precinct [or village in one case, i.e., 1927], dating back to at least 1915
* Pauper register
* Coyote bounty payment booklets of the 1920s and 1930s tied together by twine, while strewn on a shelf
* School attendance records
* Minutes for annual budget meetings for rural schools, including figures on budgeted costs and other distinctive details associated with student education
* Record of discharge for some veterans
* Soldier’s relief warrants from the early 1900s though at least the next few decades
* Treasurer’s cash book
* Improvement schedules for particular ranches in the different county precincts (i.e., 1945)
* Physician register indicating doctors that could practice within the county
* Records of liens placed upon personal property when a bank loan was issued
* Register of shipments of intoxicating liquors
* A box of microfilm records from 1955 to ca. 1970s, which may be assessment records
* Other unknown material that has not been cataloged by county officials now responsible for protecting public records
Two examples of stored material as observed January 29th. Note how some of the items are not properly placed on the shelves or are being stored in dusty conditions. This is not a suitable situation for archiving records, and immediate improvements are necessary.

Numerous conditions not suitable for long-term conservation were: 1) pervasive dust on the material and no measures underway to limit its future accumulation; 2) unsuitable organization of material with different dates placed in no organized manner; 3) presence of bugs, including dead box elder bugs; 4) unsuitable placement of material on a limited extent of shelves; 5) Record items stored in former paper boxes without any organization or identification; and, 6) metal paper clips used on paper material which taints the document quality. These conditions were most obvious. Also, some census records are being kept outside the primary storage area.

In order to properly conserve these public records efforts need to occur immediately to suitably identify and organize the material and find permanent storage facilities in order to permanently protect the paper-based documents. This effort should focus first on items with a greater value (i.e., some ledger books have more entries than others which might have only a few items denoted).

Deed records and many other essential sources of county history are readily available at an office within the county courthouse. The records can be easily found and evaluated whenever the office is open. Why is it that other material of similar origin and importance requires a specific request due to limitations on access as they are kept unrecognized in the basement of the court house? County record keeping is selective and seems arbitrary.

This history of Cherry county needs to have secure and readily available public access for residents and visitors so research can be easily done, without onerous limitations on access. A catalog is an essential need, yet no efforts are underway to provide this source so people know what to request in their endeavor to learn more about the vivid history of Cherry county and its people.

No measures to improve storage conditions of these unique documents were initiated at the February 9, 2016 meeting by the three county commissioners. One commissioner was not aware of the several points made in a document provided December 29, 2015 to the county clerk for presentation to the commissioners. There has never been any action taken in response to an email from a UNL professional, also provided to the commissioners in early January 2016. During the discussion the point was made that the recently enacted protocols for access just need to be followed. My response was: how can someone request particular records if they do not know what records are available. There was an agreement that time would be provided on a limited basis by the county assessor or alternatively the county clerk to allow further review of the records in the basement, to evaluate what is present to facilitate record access requests.

This is how the presentation was indicated in the minutes of the county commissioner meeting.

County assessor Betty Dougherty and Jim Ducey addressed the Board regarding archived County records. Mr. Ducey presented a written initial assessment of document storage and conditions, primarily in the basement of the Courthouse. He identified some conditions that might not be suitable for long term preservation of the material. He encouraged the Board to consider cataloging the records and improve the storage and public accessibility of the records. No formal Board action was taken at this time. Valentine Midland News, February 17, 2016; page 8.

Viaero Response to Comments on Arabia Tower

These are the responses provided to pre-hearing comments by a “site acquisition specialist” for Viaero Wireless as provided to the Cherry county zoning administrator. The comments are based upon a February 4, 2016 document provided to this county office prior to a public hearing of the county planning board. Each item noted in the per-hearing document was individually considered.
The following is a verbatim response to indicated questions.

"Subject: VIAERO WIRELESS Valentine, NE Southeast Site

"In response to Mr. Ducey's List of Questions (see attached numbered Questions,) I am responding with the following Answers.

"1. The Site is somewhat ½ way between our Valentine Site and Wood Lake Site where Frequency Strength needs to be centrally improved.
"2. An Alternate Location is not needed if a Landowner is open-minded to the improvement being close to his/her Headquarters, Hwy. 20 & Cowboy Trail where the Public can depend on the GSM Network.
"3. Viaero Wireless has a Programmatic Agreement with the U.S. Fish & Wildlife. U.S. Fish & Wildlife does not have any concerns if we follow their requirements.
"4. Nebraska Game and Parks were contacted. * See executed Cowboy Trail Crossing License and Nebraska Game and Parks Commission Cowboy Trail Encroaching License Agreement.’
"5. The impact is to the Publics’ Advantage where the increased Frequency Strength will improve the performance of the Hand-Held Device if they are a GSM Customer.
"6. Yes, the Improvement will be seen from Hwy. 20 and Cowboy Trail.
"7. FAA's Determination Letter states the Tower does not need to be lighted/marked and is safe for Air Navigation. Motion Lights will be installed on the Aggregate Building.
"8. I am not aware of the Number of Sites, but w/the size of Cherry County, NOT ENOUGH!
"9. I am not aware of the different Types of Towers and Monopoles in Cherry County. They were all constructed to meet Local, State & Federal Guidelines.
"10. 'Degradation' is a Term from Personalities 'Attitude', if not proven. Personally, there is not much difference of a Cell Tower, Wind Generator, Gran Bin Facility w/a tall Elevator Leg, Electrical Substations, Etc. ..., when comparing their needed Uses and Benefits.
"11. U.S. Fish & Wildlife has studies on this item. If they were concerned, we would've received correspondence from them.
"12. U.S. Fish & Wildlife is aware of this item. If they were concerned, we would've received correspondence from them. This Tower will not have any Guyed Wires.

"I am looking forward to the rescheduled Planning Commission's Public Hearing with their Recommendation forwarded to the County Board of Supervisors."

The planning board will meet on February 22nd, at 4:00 p.m. at the county office building.

Questions Regarding Proposed Arabia Locality Cellular Tower

Prepared by James E. Ducey of Valentine; for the February 2, 2016 hearing of the Cherry County Planning Board, as based upon the application for a conditional use permit.

After reviewing the application for placement of a cellular tower by Nebraska Colorado Cellular (d.b.a. Viaero Wireless), it is apparent that several factors in regards to the proposed tower siting have not been addressed. The following items should be suitably addressed in association with the permit request, before a permit is issued.

How was the location for the proposed Arabia tower determined?

Were alternative locations considered for tower placement so it would be further from the Cowboy Trail?

What sort of environmental review was conducted for the proposed tower (i.e., refer to review done by the Fish and Wildlife Service for Verizon cellular tower at Crookston)?

Since the tower is adjacent to the Cowboy Trail, has the applicant contacted the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission for their view in regards to the tower being placed near a trail parking lot used by many visitors to this important county resource?

How has the applicant evaluated the impact(s) of the cellular tower on features associated with the Cowboy Trail?

Will the ground facilities and fencing be visible from the Cowboy Trail, and/or Highway 20?

Will there be security lighting at the ground facilities? If so, how will lighting be minimized to reduce light pollution (i.e., down-shielded or motion-sensored)?

How many Viaero cellular towers are located in Cherry county?

How many are self-supporting, and how many have guy wire support?

How has Viaero mitigated for the degradation of values associated with these towers, as well as the proposed Arabia tower (i.e., landscape view degradation; or, degradation in dark sky settings for which the sandhills is nationally recognized)?

Has Viaero evaluated the cumulative impact of these towers on birds protected by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act?

How will Viaero comply with avoiding impacts to migratory birds during disturbance during construction of the tower at the Arabia locality?

02 February 2016

Some Birds Convey Early Season Territoriality at Valentine

Moderate weather conditions at the end of January and early in February have meant territorial expressions by some local birds in the vicinity of Valentine. Temperatures into the 40s meant a reduction in the extent of snow and warmth enough for there to be some open water at the Mill Pond for the Canada geese.

It was a appreciated tinge of spring.

Most obviously expressive have been some Eurasian Collared Dove. On 31 January 2016 a pair arrived mid-morning north of the Mill Pond. After feeding for a time in the horse corral along west Lake Shore Drive, their perch of choice was on its west fence. One sat a bit above the other for a time, but eventually they sat together near the ground for a few hours, as the afternoon winds were drafty, but their spot was sheltered behind big, round hay bales. Sunny conditions provided warmth throughout the day.

The territorial proclivity of these doves was very prevalent during the middle morning on the first day of February. There were three of the Eurasian Collared species on the north side of the Valentine Mill Pond. Two were territorial, either perched atop a power pole or among the topmost, and barren branches of a deciduous tree.

Within the heart city, notably along Main Street, the call of the doves was readily heard, especially close to the north end at 7th street, and then while walking southward to the central government and business district. Not every bird was seen, but each were distinctly heard along the blocks.

It would seem that the winter congregation just west of the livestock market has started to disperse and spread about the city to establish their claim on a future nesting site.

These first birds are claiming a bit of territory as the first claimants get the prime places to nest and raise young.

With pending inches of snow fall overnight on the 1st and continuing on the second day of February, there may be some change in the dove's expressive behavior. Finding food on snow-covered ground might get more attention?

It would take some close bird-watching, observant skills to determine specific activities, and typical behavior for of these prominent birds amidst the city community.

North of town by the ridge of pines beyond the pond, the locally territorial Red-tailed Hawk was also indicating his presence on Monday. Its calls were readily appreciated, as the bird could not be seen among the tree-scape.

The always boisterous Red-bellied Woodpecker was prominent on a tree snag stark on the western edge of the Valentine City Park. Another of these birds was vocalizing, but more subtly, nearby. Perhaps it was a mate?

The so few Northern Cardinal remain mute. And Dark-eyed Junco remain as a reminder that it is still winter. Blustery snow on the 2nd, reinforced this condition.