Jewels from Jewell

by Frank Dubois


Two foolish comments from Interior’s boss and ranching on the Mexican border

Secretary of Interior Sally Jewell recently visited Burns, Oregon to visit with Malheur Wildlife Refuge employees, local officials and community members about the recently concluded 41-day standoff at the refuge.

During one of the meetings Secretary Jewell said, “Well, this is land that belongs to all Americans.”

I’m so tired of hearing that.

Do you think you are part owner of the Malheur Wildlife Refuge?  Just go claim your share. You’ll end up behind bars just like the Bundys.

“This land belongs to all Americans” is a bromide that should be put to rest. The feds control ingress and egress. You don’t. The feds can sell or trade it. You can’t. The feds dictate the allowed uses. You don’t. One can only conclude the feds “own” it, not all Americans. The land is controlled by a political entity and managed for political purposes. Through the political process you may attempt to have influence over the land, but you certainly don’t own it.

While speaking at the Harney County courthouse, and acknowledging that support for the Bundy’s politics has increased, in part, because the feds haven’t countered it, Secretary Jewell said, “The federal government is not about marketing and sound bites. We’re in the forever business.”

Really? If the feds are not about marketing or sound bites, then why has Secretary Jewell requested $3.2 million in next years’ budget for her “communications” apparatus? And that is just for the Office of the Secretary. To that you should add the media budgets for the Park Service, Fish & Wildlife Service, BLM, BOR, BIA, etc. Millions spent every year to market the department’s programs, including plenty sound bites.

And forever? Try every four years, from one Presidential election until the next.

Parks & people

The Carlsbad Current-Argus reports that after nearly 60 years of working together, the National Park Service has declined to renew their contract with Carlsbad Caverns-Guadalupe Mountains Association.  That Association has donated more than $3.5 million to the parks during that period.  Clearing the shelves and packing their inventory, Dorry Batchelder, one of 11 full-time employees, said she loved the caverns, and tears welling up in her eyes said, “I really love this job.” The board chair of the association, Steve West, said they had run a bookstore at the Carlsbad Caverns Nation Park since 1957 and at the Guadalupe Mountains National Park since the 70s.  West claims the Park Service has not been fair in its dealings with the association, citing poor communications and working conditions. “Maybe the next people that come in, they’ll treat with a little bit of decency and respect,” he said.

Why bring this up here? Because this is a prime example of how the National Park Service treats a local community and its citizenry. And because New Mexico’s two U.S. Senators have sponsored legislation that has transferred 95,000 acres in northern New Mexico (The Valles Caldera) to the National Park Service. Unfortunately, the locals there, over time, can look forward to the same kind of treatment.

Border ranching

An excellent meeting was recently held in Animas, New Mexico. Titled “Calling Washington Home to the Border”, presentations were given about what it is like to live and ranch on the border with Mexico.  Included were presentations on the murder of rancher Rob Krentz, the recent kidnapping of a worker while on the Gray Ranch, and problems with break-ins, theft, water lines destroyed and fences cut. All exacerbated by the Border Patrol policy to interdict miles north of the border rather than deploy on the border itself.

Also hanging over these folks is the issue of federal land use designations. Recall the Wilderness Act prohibits motorized vehicles and mechanized equipment. National Monuments prevent off-road travel and the construction of new roads. Both designations, needless to say, create great impediments to the Border Patrol and other law enforcement.

There are seven Wilderness Study Areas totaling 145,000 acres right there in the boot heel or close by on the border. Senators Udall and Heinrich have introduced legislation to designate thousands of acres of border Wilderness in Doña Ana County.  When their legislation failed to move they successfully pushed President Obama to designate a huge National Monument. Will they do the same in Luna and Hidalgo County, further hamstringing the Border Patrol and other law enforcement?

Taking a different approach is Congressman Pearce, who has introduced H.R. 6478, the Luna and Hidalgo Counties Wilderness Study Area Release Act of 2015. This legislation would return these lands to multiple use and therefore provide reasonable access to the Border Patrol. This legislation, combined with some policy changes at the Border Patrol, could actually bring some relief to these folks. Let’s bring them back into the United States and not abandon them to a no man’s land where the Mexican drug cartels rule.

A mouse, a bird

The feds have designated 22 square miles of critical habitat within Colfax, Mora, Otero, Sandoval and Socorro counties in New Mexico; Las Animas, Archuleta and La Plata counties in Colorado; and Greenlee and Apache counties in Arizona, to protect the New Mexico meadow jumping mouse.  This will affect management along 170 miles of streams and the adjoining upland, with the Forest Service already fencing cattle off of streams in the Santa Fe and Lincoln forests in New Mexico.

The feds have also published a finding that there was “substantial information” the Southwestern willow flycatcher is not a subspecies, and that delisting the bird is warranted, based on “information related to taxonomic status.”

In plain English, it was a mistake to list it in the first place.

Till next time, be a nuisance to the devil and don’t forget to check that cinch.

Frank DuBois was the NM Secretary of Agriculture from 1988 to 2003, is the author of a blog: The Westerner ( and is the founder of The DuBois Rodeo Scholarship and The DuBois Western Heritage Foundation.