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To The Point

by Caren Cowan

Pardon Me . . .

As long as the name of a national football team is deemed newsworthy by the popular media, and seems to be filling up quite a bit of time in Congress (while Rome is burning), I want to throw another hat in the ring. Pun intended.

I learned a long time ago if you didn’t want to spend weekends, then Monday nights, then Sunday nights, and now Thursday nights alone or being really offended at being ignored that I had better learn at least a little bit about sports, football in particular. Over the years I have selected several teams to cheer for, often just to be contrarian.

Being from the Southwest and my beau at the time I had this revelation, of course the favored team was the Dallas Cowboys. There were some great players back then and the coach Tom Landry was a man above reproach. Things are pretty different these days.

Since Landry was dismissed from the Cowboys it hasn’t been the same team in my eyes. The success rate of the team now is a far cry from what Cowboys fans from yesteryear had become accustomed to. Since the team has declined so much, is it fair to real cowboys to continue to call these football players “cowboys?”

Just food for thought. Go Broncos!

Serious Media

Rural America has been blessed for several years with RFD-TV. More recently the same folks, the Patrick Gottsch family and their Rural Media Group, Inc., have added the Rural TV channel and Rural Radio on Sirus XM Radio. But you can’t ever count on a good thing . . . especially when there is government involvement.

“Comcast has been removing RFD-TV from many of their cable systems over the last year,” Gottsch reports on http://www.rfdtv.com and on Rural Radio.

“Mr. David Cohen, VP at Comcast, explained the dropping of RFD-TV in Colorado and New Mexico in August 2013 in the House Judiciary Hearing on the merger by stating that Comcast is “primarily an urban-cluster cable company,” he notes. “That did not sit well with the rural Congressmen on the panel.”

“Mr. Cohen gave no explanation for adding Al Jazeera America two days after taking RFD-TV down on those same Colorado and New Mexico cable systems, or for carrying BBC World News as an independent channel on all their systems. I also testified at that same hearing, and asked the rhetorical question “Can’t there be room for at least one channel that serves the interests of rural America,” asks Gottsch.

Now carriage of the rural, independent programming delivered by RFD-TV and RURAL TV is at stake with the potential merger of Comcast Cable with Time Warner Cable, and the separate merger of AT&T U-Verse with DIRECTV. If approved by the FCC, these two mergers will control over 54,000,000 homes affecting RFD-TV and RURAL TV viewers in all 50 states.

At the present time Rural Media Group is NOT opposed to these mergers . . . emphasis on the “at this time.” Instead, Rural Media Group is working hard to raise the level of awareness of the plight of rural, independent programing in Washington, DC, and to insure that their channels are treated fairly with these mergers so that rural interests are protected. In May Gottsch testified b­efore Congress and met separately with both the FCC (Federal Communication Commission) and the DOJ (Department of Justice). All were very interested in the potential effect of these mergers on rural America.

These same people are now reviewing the potential mergers between Comcast Cable and Time Warner Cable, along with the pending merger of AT&T with DIRECTV. This is a big deal, and will essentially determine RFD-TV and RURAL TV’s carriage for the next several years on all these cable and satellite systems.

At this time, the FCC (Federal Communications Commission) wants comments from the public. Here is your chance to  make your statement in support of RFD-TV, rural programming and all those folks outside the “urban clusters” (this may be my new favorite term). Please visit www.rfdtv.com to learn how. The public comment period will close on August 25, 2014.

List of Horribles

We were asked recently to compile a “list of horribles” in New Mexico to demonstrate the oppression New Mexicans (and their neighbors and the rest of the nation) are being crushed by. I figured if I was going to put myself to the torture of creating this list it may as well serve multiple purposes.

Congress will be headed into a five- or six-week recess around the first of August. Given that this is an election year, one would hope that candidates will have an open ear. Please free to share this information with them as often as possible.

Here goes in no particular order:

New Mexico Meadow Jumping Mouse: Listed as endangered on June 10. Critical habitat designation expect in August or September. On the northern front the U.S Forest Service (USFS) isn’t waiting until then to begin to harm small businesses and families. They first threatened an eight foot fence that would exclude all human activity including hunting, hiking, fishing, camping and grazing in the Jemez Mountains within the Santa Fe National Forest. All of this was to be done via a categorical exclusion (CE) which is a pass federal agencies can give themselves to avoid compliance with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). Fence construction was to commence on July 11.

After media attention in the Albuquerque Journal, Fox & Friends TV and other outlets around the 4th of July weekend, folks began receiving letters on July 10. That letter contemplates “only” a five foot fence to exclude grazing with the possibility of eliminating dispersed camping. There is a 30-day comment period with an August 10 deadline for commenting. After that the USFS will go ahead and give themselves the CE and then proceed to build the fence . . . or that is the plan I am sure.

Down south in the Lincoln National Forest there has already been one allotment where cattle have been fenced off water. We understand that more fences on are planned on a few more allotments.

Hopefully the media attention will keep the fire hot and we can force the agency into following the law and complying with NEPA in the form of an environmental impact statement (EIS). It seems that should be the least the government should do before taking food out of Americans’ mouths and eliminating about 20 small businesses in one of the poorest states in the nation.

There is no doubt that there will be litigation on this issue. There is even less doubt that we will need to seriously fund-raise to pay for it. If you have a spare dime, please earmark it for litigation.

Lesser Prairie Chicken: Listed as threatened on March 27. Awaiting critical habitat designation at any time. In a landmark effort for private, voluntary conservation, five states came together to develop a range-wide conservation plan to protect and enhance this bird. Ranchers, farmers and the oil and gas industry worked together. Millions of acres were committed to the plan as was tens of millions of dollars. But that didn’t satisfy the U.S Fish & Wildlife Service (FWS) or better stated, it didn’t meet the demands of a deal made with the devil in 2012 to address hundreds of species in an impossible timeline.

The FWS claims that it is/was that the Five State Conservation Plan will be followed and there is a portion of the rule, 4(d) which is supposed to provide protection for landowners. But there is always a catch. The Five State Plan was voluntary. It has become mandatory. Those added protections . . . well they are probably good until at least the next lawsuit.

The litigation has already begun. The anti’s have already sued the FWS because they don’t want the 4(d) rule AND they want the bird listed as “endangered” rather than “threatened.” On the other side, the oil and gas industry has already filed suit in Oklahoma and Texas. New Mexico’s land users will likely join in the fray in the immediate future.

There are plenty of issues to litigate ranging from not following the Administrative Procedures Act (APA) to not using the best available science. For the cherry on top, it is being reported that the birds’ population in the occupied range is up 20 percent over last year.

Mexican Wolf: To shortly recap, the FWS has two rule-making proposals on the table. One is to delist all wolves except the Mexican wolf. The other is to up list the Mexican wolf. There have been comment periods on both of these proposals and we are awaiting a decision from the government.

There is also a draft environmental impact statement that is expected to hit the streets by late July. It is expected that this document will propose an expansion of the range for the beast, as well as much increased numbers for them. There will be public hearings on the draft on August 11 in T or C, New Mexico and August 13 in Pinetop, Arizona.

There is a lot of background noise about Ted Turner’s request to release Mexican wolves on the Vermejo Park ranch in northern New Mexico. The plan, admitted or not, is to have the Mexican wolves breed with the northern wolves to “add new genetics” to the fragile, inbred Mexican wolves . . . and to have wolves ranging from Alaska to Mexico.

At the same time, the latest recovery planning effort languishes without a meeting in years. The FWS has been struggling to create recovery plans for more than two decades.

Meanwhile back at the ranch . . . a growing wolf population is killing cattle in record numbers.

Grizzly Bears: The Center for Biological Diversity (CBD) has filed a petition with the FWS to reintroduce this vicious animal in New Mexico, Arizona and several other states. As silly as it sounds, under the current Endangered Species Act (ESA) it is  required that the FWS consider the petition. If they don’t agree to introduce they will be sued. This probably won’t happen quickly, but don’t discount the possibility of it happening.

Jaguar: Although there have only been sightings of males in the U.S. in the past 100-plus years, the FWS has listed the cat AND designated 764,207 acres of critical habitat in Arizona and New Mexico. The anti’s are not happy with that and have sued for more. This habitat designation will all but stop predator management in the Southwest.

Snakes: The FWS has issued “threatened status for the northern Mexican gartersnake and the narrow-headed gartersnake, both native species in Arizona and New Mexico. The listing becomes effective August 7. The listing includes a 4(d) rule that will exempt operation and maintenance of livestock tanks on private, state and tribal lands from the prohibitions on “take” of listed species. Some northern Mexican gartersnakes occupy stock tanks, or impoundments maintained by cattlemen as livestock watering holes. The special rule will allow landowners to construct new stock tanks and to continue to use and maintain those stock tanks on non-federal lands, which may be occupied by northern Mexican gartersnakes, without the need for further regulation.

See the lesser prairie chicken to see what happens to 4(d) rules.

Lynx: Waiting for listing

Yellow Billed Cuckoo: ditto

That’s just the endangered species horribles. Now we move on to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and others. We are in a comment period on the Waters of the US (WOTUS) proposal that threatens to take control of every drop of water in the nation. The comment period ends on October 20. A little jewel that came with the proposal was the Interpretive Rule (IR). The IR was published in late April 2014 but comments were open until July 7. The Interpretive Rule (IR) is an element of WOTUS and has direct impact on agricultural exemptions and the future of voluntary conservation. The rule is supposed to make agriculture feel better by exempting us from the WOTUS . . . if Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) practices are followed. Not only does the IR make conservation regulatory not voluntary, it puts some conservation methods so far out of reach financially that conservation simply won’t occur.

On July 2 the EPA stated in the Federal Register that by the authority of the Debt Collection Improvement Act (DCIA ) of 1996 it issued a proposed rule that “will allow the EPA to garnish non-Federal wages to collect delinquent non-tax debts owed the United States without first obtaining a court order.” According to the Treasury Department, under DCIA, such debts include “unpaid loans, overpayments or duplicate payments made to federal salary or benefit payment recipients, misused grant funds, and fines, penalties or fees assessed by federal agencies.” The EPA explains that, “Prior to the enactment of the DCIA, Federal agencies were required to obtain a court judgment before garnishing non-Federal wages. Section 31001(o) of the DCIA preempts State laws that prohibit wage garnishment or otherwise govern wage garnishment procedures.”

Then we have international border issues. People living along the Mexican border have been arguing for a secure border for literally decades. Now we find that the border has fallen and illegal aliens are streaming into our states. If they come in along another state border, the U.S. Border Patrol is transporting them to our states and in some cases just turning them loose. Watch the national news for “the rest of the story. n