N.M. Federal Lands News 12/10

The November elections brought a tidal wave of change to the US House, Senate and numerous Governor’s offices and statehouses around the country. In New Mexico the legislature remains controlled by Democrats but the Governor’s office will be occupied by Republican Susana Martinez…

Steve Pearce will return to Washington to represent the 2nd Congressional district. Congressman Pearce has always supported federal land ranching and was the only member of our congressional delegation to hold hearings on the failed Mexican wolf reintroduction and the misery it has caused western New Mexico rural residents.

The election was a rejection of the policies of the Obama administration and its allies in congress. Voters tried to send the message that they want less government, less wasteful spending and common sense solutions to problems, not more restrictive regulations. If that message is heard it should be good for federal land grazing.

Administration environmental policies especially support of cap and trade legislation were among those rejected by voters.  Of course Obama’s EPA is still planning to circumvent the legislative process and implement regulations on CO2 emissions that will have the same effect.

Incredibly the New Mexico Environmental Improvement Board announced the approval of plans to institute a similar program on the state level here. New Mexico would be part of a regional effort with regulations to take effect in 2012.

Of course the science supporting the hysterical claims that man-caused climate change is about to wreck the planet has been exposed as junk and the plans to reduce emissions won’t impact CO2 levels anyway. What they will do is depress our economy and job markets by increasing electricity and fuel costs. We will have to depend on legislators in Santa Fe and Washington to use the appropriations process and whatever other tools they have to stop these boondoggles or at least minimize their negative impacts.

On more federal land specific issues, Senator Bingaman is reportedly attempting to ram another Omnibus Lands Bill through the lame duck session of congress that is going on as this is written. That legislation will have numerous proposals for federal land acquisition and special land-use designations and will probably include his Dona Ana County wilderness bill.

Passage of this bill would be disastrous for Doña Ana county ranchers but the border security risks it will create will impact all of us. Some news reports refer to the violence in Mexico as our “third war”.  Steve Wilmeth has written a recent article that details concerns of former Border Patrol officers with the Bingaman bill and their opposition to it. He also exposes how the Interior Department extorted over $50 million from the Border Patrol budget to “mitigate” damages from border enforcement action in wildlife refuges and wilderness areas.

Forcing legislation with such far-reaching impacts and negative consequences through congress with little or no debate in a lame duck session is not an honest way to legislate federal land policy. That kind of disregard for debate and discussion of legislation is what led to many incumbents losing their seats in this last election. The lame duck session should be reserved for necessary business like approving the budget and renewing tax cuts not pet project legislation to appease environmental special interest groups.

In addition to the threat of legislation imposing new restrictions on federal land use, the Interior Department is still working toward National Monument designations or other regulatory means to accomplish the same goals. Despite promises of openness and transparency, every so often documents or other evidence surface to show that somewhere in the Department plans are being made for more land grabs.  The new majority in the House has promised oversight hearings on executive branch activities to expose hidden agendas and agency shenanigans. This Interior Department should not be ignored when it comes time to schedule those hearings.

Environmentalists have filed suit against Interior Secretary Ken Salazar to force a ruling on the listing of the Mexican wolf as a separate species. The WildEarth Guardians filed the suit in late October in Phoenix to force Salazar to rule on a petition they and other groups filed in 2009 to require the separate listing. The Center for Biological Diversity filed a Notice of Intent to sue the US Fish and Wildlife Service in Washington over the same issue.

And our governor has forced his Game Commission to ratify his ban on all trapping in the Gila supposedly to protect wolves.

Wolves continue to devastate wildlife populations in Montana and Idaho. Two elk hunters were stalked by a wolf pack in Montana while trying to load their elk and pack it out of a wilderness area. They believe they would have been killed if they hadn’t shot one of the wolves. The Fish and Wildlife Service is still investigating, presumably to decide whether or not to bring charges for killing the endangered wolf. Even though wolf populations exceed reintroduction goals, lawsuits have kept them listed so these hunters could face civil and criminal penalties for defending themselves.

Environmental groups keep suing and collecting. There are two sources of funds the government uses to pay legal fees to plaintiffs, the Judgment Fund and the Equal Access to Justice Act. Karen Budd-Falen has found data that shows from 2003-2007 the Judgment Fund paid out $4.7 billion. Not all of that went to environmental groups but a big chunk of it did. This fund is not capped and the Justice Department doesn’t even keep records on how many cases it has defended let alone how much they have paid or who they paid it to. That is unbelievable. If we ran our businesses that way we would be sued and have to pay our own legal bills.

New Mexico’s Secretary of Agriculture Miley Gonzales has announced his retirement at the end of the year. The New Mexico Department of Agriculture is administered as a part of New Mexico State University and unlike other cabinet level departments; the position is filled by the Board of Regents of NMSU. NMDA has always been a big help to New Mexico ranchers including those of us who operate on federal lands. Thanks to Secretary Gonzales for his service to the industry.

Charley McCarty lives in Reserve and has dealt with Forest Service personnel for most of his life in one way or another. He has written a book about his experiences titled Trouble in a Green Pickup. From that title you can probably guess what his perspective on Forest Service management is. Charley’s stories show why people often see trouble coming in one of those green pickups. He will be at the Joint Stockmen’s Convention and his book is available on Amazon.com

This issue of the Stockman will arrive during the holidays. Christmas is a time for us to remember why we celebrate the season and give thanks for our many blessings. There are still a lot of young people overseas fighting to keep the rest of us safe so we can enjoy our freedoms here at home. Let’s pray for their safe return.  Merry Christmas and may God bless.