N.M. Federal Lands News

by Frank DuBois 

The Federal Land Council News 

The Urban Brand is on the land and the West is burning – the people speak, including a former Deputy Chief of the Forest

As I write this the Gila and Whitewater-Baldy Fires are still burning. Instead of me writing about the fires, I thought it would be best to listen to those closest to the ground, including a retired Deputy Chief of the Forest who is speaking out.

“We are not going to wish our way out of this problem. “When we have 2,500 trees per acre where historical balance demonstrates we need 150 or less, we have to get to that historical balance with firm resolve or we are going to see fires burn it all to zero! We have loved our forests to death!” – Congressman Steve Pearce

“There is a whole new dynamic that is not going to go away with the practices now being applied in our Forests. The enabling legislation for our forest system was not adorned with the side shows that we now endure. The political debacle has paralyzed the agency, and its original mission of caring for the land and serving the people no longer exists. The actions that have put us all in physical peril have also divided our communities and those families that must live in those natural surroundings. I totally agree with your Congressman (Pearce) concerning the Forest Service and lack of management.”– Bill Rice, Deputy Chief of the Forest Service, ret.

“Dr. Wally Covington of Northern Arizona University has studied the condition of the southwestern forests for over three decades. He and countless common sense people have been sounding the alarm over the increased tree densities and risk of disease, insect infestations and catastrophic wildfire. These warnings have been thwarted by green special interests through appeals and litigation. It is time that we demand that the Federal Government remove the legal barriers hampering proper forest management.” – Howard Hutchinson, Coalition of Arizona/New Mexico Counties

“Anybody that has ever been in the Gila Wilderness, knows, this disastrous fire was totally predictable. The same can be said for the fire in Ruidoso, Arizona, and Colorado and all areas managed by the Regional Forest office in Albuquerque. We are reaping the destruction from the many years of preservation management. We simply cannot expect the regional office to fix the problems they created. Accountability means firing all the people responsible in the regional office. We need new people who truly understand multiple use as related to forest health.” – Hugh B. McKeen, Chairman, Catron County Commission

“I’ve been here 65 years. I’ve never seen any (fire) like this one. They could have put that fire out. The fire started on the May 9. Just before daylight, I could see the flames up there, just one tree burning. The forest supervisor, the fire control officer, and the dispatcher, all of them were notified. I told them, ‘It’s on fire. And there’s a snag burning and if the wind picks up like it did a week ago, it’s gonna go over the top of the mountain in nothing flat.’” – Terrell Shelly, Rancher

“Then comes the two fires that started the whole Gila mess. One rancher turned the Baldy fire in on May 9 2012. The USFS had 15 days to stop this fire. Of course the USFS will say things like, ‘it was too dangerous to get fire fighters on the ground and fire retardent does not work when we do not have people on the ground.’ Frank, in my life I have seen them bomb the hell out of fires with planes. The truth is if you put a fire out none of the rest of the fire fighters make money. Guess what else we just found out. When we asked the USFS if they would bring equipment to help clean out the White Water Creek channel and others in the Glenwood, Alma, Pleasanton area, they said they could not. No equipment available and no money. When we ask for financial aid they said no. They are the ones responsible! For 30 years the USFS and Gang Green have been causing this. The citizens and Catron County are the ones reaching in their pockets and putting their equipment into the channel and doing the work.” – Bucky & Garnelle Allred, Business Owners (Glenwood)

“The bottom line is failed policy through fraudulent science, flawed research of wildlife species such as the Mexican Spotted Owl, the tunnel vision focus held by environmentalist groups that recklessly use the Endangered Species Act, among other litigation, to forward an agenda that has complete disregard for rural New Mexicans, and biased courts that rule in favor of these groups is what set the conditions for the forest management crisis of the Gila. The land is degenerating as a result because there are simply too many trees per acre in the Gila.” – Tyrell Mares- Forestry Student/ Soldier (Silver City, NM/ Fort Carson, CO)

“All these fires here are due to many years of mismanagement. A lot of logging needs to be done to thin out the forest to give the forest a chance to regenerate and the ridiculous livestock grazing restrictions needs to be removed. I am not saying clear cut every tree or graze down the grass completely, I’m just saying the forest needs to be cleaned up.” – Amanda Farris- Ranch Hand (Reserve)

“The Forest Service should be held criminally liable for ALL of this. They close roads, they refuse to allow logging, they refuse wood cutting of any kind. They are so damn smug and self righteous and the entire den of snakes has so many hidden agendas that unless you are a member of the hidden environmental class, you have no voice in the Forest Service and then when a simple lightning strike starts a fire they won’t even look at a weather forecast to see that the wind will blow and that the fire should be put out quickly. But no, these elite eggheads know so much more than anyone else they refuse to act.” – Brad Kimmick- Mine Supervisor (Silver City)

“I keep hearing how mad people are at the USFS for mismanagement of the Gila, but the Federal Courts and the Environmental Groups need to be brought out now as the main culprits of these disastrous fires and flooding that occur after the flames go out. They kill more endangered species then they have ever saved!”– Wade Dixon- NM DOT Supervisor (Reserve)

“If things continue the way they are we won’t need the Forest Service because there will not be anything to manage!” – James Koons, President/Owner of All Glass MD (Silver City)

“As a land owner near the Gila forest area, I feel the fault lies with both the environmentalists and the USFS. First with the environmentalists, for taking grazing out of the forest and causing very over grown vegetation. And second the USFS for thinking the Baldy Fire would burn without any problems because of being in an old burn. And due to the White Water Baldy Fire the air quality has been very poor and has caused those with respiratory problems to have to leave their home and land they love.” – Ann Clark- Nurse/ Volunteer Firefighter (Buckhorn)

Any observer of these fires couldn’t help but notice they both started in Wilderness Areas. Looks like our elected officials are starting to take note too.

“If you had asked me 10 years ago what I thought of the White Mountain Wilderness I would have told you I was in favor of it. The White Mountain Wilderness terrain is beautiful and unique, which should absolutely be protected. However, after years of drought, massive bug tree kill, and blown down trees, this area has become excessively under managed and highly prone to fire damage. Even though the Forest Service has proposed thinning and restoration projects in these forests, lawsuits and appeals by the Wild Earth Guardians, Center for Biological Diversity and others have totally hampered the ability of the Forest Service to manage it. The restrictions on roads and motorized vehicles, chainsaws, and grazing by livestock have also hurt the ability to manage this area. In my opinion, forests in the Southwest, especially those near an urban interface, should never be designated as wilderness areas. As long as the wilderness designation stands, we will not be able to control the area appropriately. This leaves us incredibly vulnerable to disastrous fire damage. We need to consider removing the wilderness designation from the White Mountain Wilderness.” – Mark Doth, Lincoln County Commissioner

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).