N.M. Federal Lands News

This time the attack heads back down south and a grazing bill is surprise, surprise actually positive.

The tale of two monument proposals

Last time I wrote about the attack on el norte. I guess that made the enviros del sur jealous, for they have now embarked on a new crusade to tie up 600,000 acres in Doña Ana County. That would put 25 percent of the county in a national monument.

You will recall their previous endeavor was to have just under 250,000 acres designated as wilderness and over 90,000 acres designated as a national conservation area. Senator Bingaman, with Senator Udall as a cosponsor, introduced the legislation. However, even with the support of then Governor Bill Richardson, the Las Cruces City Council and the Doña Ana County Commission, and with Bingaman being chair of the committee of jurisdiction, they have been unable to pass the legislation.

Now comes phase two of their attack. Having been unsuccessful using the democratic process they’ve now turned to executive branch fiat. The local media says they are petitioning President Obama to exercise his authority under the Antiquities Act of 1906 to designate 600,000 acres as the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument. Funny thing is, no one has seen the petition. That means the Mayor of Las Cruces, the Las Cruces Sun-News and other local officials and entities have endorsed a proposal they’ve never seen – kind of a Nancy Pelosi “we have to pass it to find out what’s in it” scenario.

Why is it important to see the petition? The language the President includes in his proclamation will determine such things as:

  • The actual boundaries of the proposed monument
  • Which agency will manage the monument
  • Whether livestock grazing may occur
  • Whether hunting may occur, and
  • Whether law enforcement will have access

As another example, the Doña Ana Soil & Water Conservation District is concerned they won’t be able to maintain 50 or so dams in the area, or construct new facilities for flood control purposes, or implement watershed treatment programs. Whether or not they would have access, or if so under what restrictions, would again be determined by the language in the Presidential proclamation.

You will recall that in the Spring of 2009 secret Department of Interior documents were leaked, one of which was a BLM memo to the Secretary of Interior titled “Treasured Landscapes.” Within that document were recommendations for the President to use his authority to designate National Monuments. Two areas were recommended in New Mexico: Otero Mesa – 1.2 million acres, and The Lesser Prairie Chicken Preseve – 58,000 acres. Combine those with the most recent proposal and you would have almost 2 million acres taken out of multiple-use. That’s an area larger than the state of Delaware or twice the size of Rhode Island.

It should be noted this situation is not unique to Doña Ana County or even to New Mexico. Environmentalists and wilderness advocates west-wide are pushing for National Monument designations. Frustrated by their inability to pass wilderness bills through Congress they are turning to their favorite “We Can’t Wait” President for executive action.

In response to this Rep. Steve Pearce has introduced H.R. 4334, the Organ Mountains National Monument Establishment Act, which would designate 58,512 acres in the Organs. This bill is kind to grazing. Livestock grazing is listed as one of the resources to be preserved, and it includes language allowing the use of motorized vehicles and mechanical equipment for range improvements and for “the performance of standard ranching operations.” The Pearce bill has been referred to the House Committee on Natural Resources. Pearce’s staff say they are open to suggestions or improvements and I have recommended the title be changed to the Organ Mountains-Cox Family National Monument and that the legislation direct the BLM to recognize and celebrate the over 120 years of ranching by the Cox Family.

Grazing Improvement Act

Whenever a piece of legislation causes the Western Watershed Project and other enviro organizations to go nuts, I figure it warrants a look-see. The legislation in question is The Grazing Improvement Act as introduced by Senator John Barrasso of Wyoming as S. 1129, and in the House by Representative Raul Labrador of Idaho as H.R. 4324.

This bill would amend FLPMA in the following important ways:

  • Grazing permits would be for 20 years instead of the current 10
  • Recognizes that the renewal, reissuance or transfer of a permit does not, per se, have a resource impact so long as there is no change in the grazing management and grants them a categorical exclusion
  • Requires that all appeals of grazing permit decisions be conducted “on the record” in accordance with the fundamental principles of the Administrative Procedures Act (APA). This is a particularly critical provision as applied to the Forest Service. The Forest Service currently lacks an independent body to hear administrative appeals similar to the Interior Board of Land Appeals (IBLA) that adjudicates BLM appeals.
  • Places the burden of proof in an appeal on the agencies instead of the permittee
  • Provides that upon appeal the agency decision is suspended and that current grazing is allowed to continue until the appeal is resolved

At a recent Senate Committee hearing on S. 1129 Senator Barrasso said, “For over a decade, agencies have relied on year-to-year appropriation rider language to reissue grazing permits. My bill codifies this important language. The BLM and Forest Service simply cannot keep up with the required NEPA analysis due to limited funding and a backlog of lawsuits by the anti-grazing, pro-litigation groups. This bill also provides the respective Secretaries with needed flexibility when reissuing grazing permits”.

Neither of New Mexico’s Senators are cosponsors of the bill.

The Western Watershed Project says the bill would “further obstruct the proper administration of grazing” and tie down the ability of the agencies “to enforce environmental laws.” I can’t give it a higher recommendation than that.

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 ).

2012 NM Angus & Hereford Bull Sale Summary

A really good set of cattle made up the offering during the 2012 NM Angus & Hereford Bull Sale held March 3 at the Roswell Livestock Auction. Quality held deep and the consignors were rewarded with an average sale value of $3,028 on 53 Angus bulls while 12 registered Angus heifers averaged $2,675. The top grading 2-year-old Angus bull was awarded to Miller Angus, Floyd, NM and sold for $3,000. The top grading yearling bull was awarded to Claude Gion, Belen, NM and brought $3,250. Gregory Car

rasco, Las Cruces, NM was consignor of the top selling Angus bull which was evaluated at $4,500. The top selling Angus female, also the top grading female, was consigned by Breckenridge Partnership, Roswell, NM and sold for $3,600.

The Hereford bull consignment was equally impressive in quality and soundness. Buyers demonstrated their approval and placed a value of $3,698 average on the 22 head of range ready bulls. B&H Herefords, Hope, NM had a very successful day as a consignor as they were singled out for having the highest grading 2-year-old Hereford and also the highest evaluated bull at $6,750. Cooper Cattle Co., Quemado, NM had the top grading yearling Hereford that commanded a $5,000 evaluation.

An excellent crowd was in attendance and they obviously had come to buy quality. There were 32 bull buyers during the day with eight taking home three or more bulls. Volume bull buyer took home a total of 10 head from the two breeds. Some high quality black baldies appear to be in the making. n

Wool economic focus

World fiber consumption is facing considerable uncertainty in 2012 due to the twin effects of the predicted slowdown in the world economy and a reaction to the high fiber prices in 2011. As a result, total fiber consumption will barely grow in 2012. In contrast, world fiber production is expected to grow strongly in 2012 due to a strong increase in world cotton production. The combination of weak fiber consumption and an increase in production will keep pressure on world fiber prices.

World fiber prices hav e pulled back from the peaks seen in 2011. The most significant decline has been in cotton prices. Since the peak in March-April 2011, cotton prices have declined by 56 percent, while prices for polyester staple and for acrylic have declined by 17 percent and 22 percent, respectively. This decline reflects weak consumption growth while production and supply has increased.

Wool prices have mostly performed `better, mainly due to the supply squeeze. Medium (21 micron) wool prices have fallen by 9 percent since the peak in June 2011 with crossbred (28 micron) wool prices also falling by 9 percent. The exception to this performance are prices for superfine (18 micron) wool, which have fallen by 24 percent. Unlike other wool types that are in tight supply, the superfine wool production has increased in 2011-2012, putting pressure on prices.

Wool prices could be sustained at around current levels given the tight supply while prices for other fibers could weaken a little in 2012.

Source: Landmark, AU