N.M. Federal Lands News

My column this month will feature Sheriffs, wilderness, road closures, false court cases, federale drones and my new venture in the cattle business.

NM Sheriffs & Wilderness

Three New Mexico border Sheriffs have announced their opposition to Senator Bingaman’s S. 1024 which would create 242,000 acres of Wilderness in Doña Ana and Luna Counties.

Todd Garrison, the Sheriff of Doña Ana County, submitted written testimony to the Senate Subcommittee on Forests and Public Lands stating the prohibitions in the Wilderness Act “would stymie my department’s efforts to protect the public safety.” Garrison also said, “given the recent problems of drug and human trafficking, it would seem the height of folly to place such restrictions on law enforcement in this border area.”

Luna County Sheriff Raymond Cobos also submitted testimony saying the provisions of the Wilderness Act would “hamstring effective law enforcement.” And Saturnino Madero, Hidalgo County Sheriff, noting there are five Wilderness Study Areas in his county “which are being promoted as candidates for future legislation” said he found it “highly inadvisable to create Federal land use designations which prevent, limit or restrict law enforcement activity.”

In addition, the New Mexico Sheriffs’ Association recently passed a resolution stating the association “opposes the enactment of S. 1024 which would designate 242,000 acres of Wilderness on or near the border with Mexico.” Add the opposition of the National Association of Former Border Patrol Officers and there is unanimous opposition to Bingaman’s bill by the law enforcement communities most impacted by its provisions.

And many thanks to these Sheriffs for their courageous stand on behalf of public safety and sound land management.

The Sheriffs & the Forest Service

Greg Hagwood, the Sheriff of Plumas County, California recently testified to the House Natural Resources Committee concerning the Forest Service’s Travel Management Plan. Pointing out that enforcement “is central to the credibility of any law”, the Sheriff said given “the sheer scope of the land mass involved, it will be impossible to consistently or fairly enforce the Travel Management Policy without a massive increase in Federal Law Enforcement staffing which seems unlikely and ill advised.” Sheriff Hagwood testified in addition that “such outrageous impediments to the citizens ability to freely travel public lands have been inflicted upon the citizens by a subset bureaucracy of the Department of Agriculture and not Congress further diminishes its legitimacy in the eyes of the people.”

The Sheriff stated that those who for generations accessed the forest to cut firewood, fish, hike, ride horses, motorcycles, mountain bikes and camp now face “reduced access, restricted and closed roadways” and parking restrictions that are “completely arbitrary and capricious.”

The Sheriff concluded by saying “the Plumas County Sheriff’s Office will not enforce the Travel Management Policy as it exists today. I will not inflict punitive measures against law abiding citizens who would do nothing more than access what have long been recognized as public lands.” Sheriff Hagwood further stated, “The Sheriff’s Office will not create a new class of criminals out of our family, neighbors and guests who endeavor nothing more than enjoying the forest.”

Grant County, Oregon Sheriff Glenn Palmer has notified the Forest Service he was concerned about “the treatment of citizens of this county” by Forest Service law enforcement and the Forest Service’s Travel Management Plan. Sheriff Palmer also questioned the Forest Service’s authority to have police operating in the county, citing limitations on federal powers in the U.S. Constitution. “Your jurisdiction as I see it is limited in nature to the Federal Building in John Day,” Palmer wrote. “I want to remind you that all policing within the external borders of Grant County are the exclusive responsibility of the Grant County Sheriff’s Office and enforcement of all laws shall rest with the County Sheriff and his designees.”

And Sierra County, New Mexico Sheriff Joe Baca, in response to a recent meeting on a Forest Service Travel Management Plan, posted on Facebook, “Sorry I could not make it last night. Just know that I will not let them close any roads and if they so choose to do so I will arrest them for unlawfully closing a county road. They have no jurisdiction in Sierra County without me and I will not give them any. You have my support 100 percent and we will keeps the forest open!”

The Sheriff Hoax Case

Over the years I have received many emails concerning a Sheriff Mattis in Big Horn County, Wyoming. The most recent was titled “County Sheriff Can Bust Big Bro: Wyoming Sheriffs Put Feds In Their Place” and like similar emailed articles cites a Federal District Court case usually listed as Castaneda v. United States, No. 96-CV-099.

No such ruling was issued as the case was settled following a settlement conference in 1997. Apparently there has been so much misrepresentation about this case the Chief Judge of the Wyoming Federal District Court felt compelled to issue a statement. If you go to the court’s website, Chief Judge William F. Downes has issued an undated statement, which says in part:

We have learned that it has been reported, erroneously, that the court made a legal ruling in the Castaneda case regarding the authority of federal law enforcement officials to conduct operations in the County. There was no such ruling or decision. Instead, the court simply granted a motion, submitted jointly by all the parties, to dismiss the case because the parties had settled.

This Court has never issued an order which would serve to limit the lawful activities and duties of federal law enforcement officers and other federal employees in the District of Wyoming.

So please don’t be guilty of passing on erroneous information.

We have a state statute in New Mexico which statutorily cross-commissions certain federal officers and requires all others to be cross-commissioned by the County Sheriff. Bud Eppers and others worked hard to get this bill passed by the legislature and it was signed into law by Governor Gary Johnson. Visit with your local Sheriff to see how he is administering the statute.

Drone, Drone on the range

Readers of my blog know I’ve long been predicting the drones used by the military in Iraq and Afghanistan would someday be used by BLM and the Forest Service to determine range condition and monitor cattle numbers. Well, it looks like that day is fast arriving.

Three researchers at the USDA-ARS Jornada Experimental Range and one from NMSU have been experimenting with a 20-pound drone that has a 6-foot wingspan and cruises 700 feet above the earth collecting digital images. They’ve published two studies in scientific journals saying the drone data is “sufficiently accurate to be comparable to information gathered in ground-based surveys for shrubs, grasses and other plants”. The ARS web page says they are gathering digital data on “national parks, forests, mountains, and deserts of the West” from the states of Idaho, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, North Dakota, South Dakota, Oklahoma, and Wyoming.

So there you have it. The BLM and the Forest Service will have their own Spy in the Sky. Smokey Bear will transfer to the FAA and Interior’s buffalo will grow wings. Salazar Saucers will be flying over your rancho and you will now receive your Cut In Carrying Capacity or Trespass Notice in the mail accompanied by digital photographs, just like the city folks get from red light cameras.

Well I’m gonna fight back.

Check your local feed store for DuBois Drone Detectors that will hang on your windmill. The DuBois Drone Destroyers are still in the testing phase, so watch for future announcements on that baby.

And I’m getting back in the cattle business. I’ll soon be breeding and marketing camouflage cows. Until 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 (www.thewesterner.blogspot.com) and is the founder of The DuBois Rodeo Scholarship www.nmsu.edu/~duboisrodeo/).