N.M. Federal Lands News

by Frank DuBois

The Federal Land Council News

This month’s column is about fly eatin’ birds, cow eatin’ wolves and saying adios to Salazar and wood stoves.

The Wee Willy Flycatcher

The willow flycatcher is a small, insect-eating, migrant bird that only grows to about five inches in length and spends the winter in Mexico and Central America. The bird nests in the southwestern U.S. from May through September.

On January 4 the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service published the final designation of critical habitat for the willow fly catcher.  This is an expansion of existing designations, which were 120,824 acres and 737 river miles. The new designation of critical habitat is 208,973 acres and 1,227 stream miles and will affect Federal, State, Tribal and Private lands in 37 counties in the states of California, Colorado, Arizona, Nevada, Utah and New Mexico.

The counties included in New Mexico are Catron, Grant, Hidalgo, Mora, Rio Arriba, Taos, Socorro and Valencia.

Looking through the special management actions in the 500-page document, I see two right away that may cause problems. For livestock grazing the document states:

Special management may include the following actions: manage livestock grazing to increase flycatcher habitat quality and quantity by determining appropriate areas, seasons, and use consistent within the natural historical norm and tolerances; reconfigure grazing units, improve fencing, and improve monitoring and documentation of grazing practices; manage wild and feral hoofed-mammals (ungulates) (e.g., elk, horses, burros) to increase flycatcher habitat quality and quantity

And for agriculture in general there is the following:

. . . eliminate or reduce dewatering stressors such as surface water diversion and groundwater pumping to increase stream flow and groundwater elevations; reduce salinity levels by modifying agricultural practices and restoring natural hydrologic regimes and flushing flood flows

This rule is final and will take effect February 4.

Personally, I don’t believe these critters are endangered. Anything that can survive on flies and other nasty insects has got to be dang tough and can survive on its own.  I also understand they have really bad breath.

Mexican gray wolves are headed your way

I recently received a preliminary Draft Management Plan and Environmental Assessment prepared by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service for the wolf.  With only a quick review I can tell you this is a huge expansion of the program.

First, the feds are proposing a Mexican Wolf Experimental Population Area (MWEPA) that would take in all the area north of Interstate 10 and South of Interstate 40, from the western state line of Arizona, across New Mexico and into west Texas. You Texas folks better get ready because this MWEPA will run from north of Amarillo, through Lubbock and San Angelo down to Del Rio.

It appears that in addition they are establishing three management zones.

Management Zone 1 in NM would be lands north of Interstate 40 to the Colorado line. The draft EA says those areas capable of wolf colonization are the Santa Fe and Carson National Forests and “areas adjacent to the forests including private land protected under conservation easement and tribal land managed as wilderness.” Signed a conservation easement with the feds or an enviro group? Great, you just created yourself some wolf habitat.

Management Zone 2 would be those portions of NM from Interstate 10 south to the border with Mexico. Areas affected would be “Southern Hidalgo, Grant, Luna, and Doña Ana counties including the Alamo Hueco, Big Hatchet Mountains, and West Potrillo Mountains Wilderness Study Areas, the Peloncillo Mountains of the Coronado National Forest, and the Animas, Little Hatchet, Big Hatchet, Alamo Hueco, Cedar and Potrillo mountain ranges.”

Management Zone 3 is basically the west Texas region previously described.

There is much more to these documents, including when the feds will allow a “take”, but those issues will have to await a thorough analysis. Suffice it to say the wolves have been a problem for the ranchers and families in Catron and Grant counties. Now the entire state has been declared wolf habitat.

Meanwhile, in the Yakutia region of Russia, they have declared an emergency because of too many wolves. There have been over 16,000 reindeer and 319 domestic horses slaughtered by wolves, but these former commies know how to handle it.  They’ve extended the hunting season for wolves to be year-long and are offering bonuses to the best hunters.

Adios to Salazar

On December 15 Secretary of Interior Ken Salazar, accompanied by Rep. Ben Ray Lujan, attended a short-noticed meeting in Taos. The meeting was called to receive comments on a swath of federal lands known as Rio Grande del Norte. Rep. Lujan and former Senator Bingaman had introduced legislation to make this land a combination of Wilderness and National Conservation Area. Since they couldn’t get their bill through the Congress, the enviros now want the President to declare the area a National Monument. Secretary Salazar said this could be a great legacy for Bingaman. But I ask: Why would anyone want their legacy to be denying or restricting the public’s access and use of their land?

Also, on January 21 of last year the Northern New Mexico Stockmen’s Association, the New Mexico Cattle Growers’ Association, the New Mexico Woolgrowers and the New Mexico Federal Lands Council wrote to Rep. Lujan to express their concern over his Rio Grande del Norte legislation and asked a series of questions on the grazing language therein. Here we are almost a year later and we’ve received no response.

Two weeks ago Salazar announced he would be stepping down in March and returning to his home in Colorado. Names being mentioned to replace Salazar are Rep. Raul Grijalva (who would be a disaster), outgoing Washington Governor Christine Gregoire, former N. Dakota Senator Byron Dorgan and most recently our own Senator Tom Udall. You’ll probably have the answer before this gets into print.

So, you were thinkin’ you’d pull your chair up to your wood stove and cook some willow flycatcher eggs while cleaning your gun for some wolf huntin’. Better think again. Why? Because the EPA is about to ban wood stoves. EPA has proposed regulations on fine air particles that would make many wood stoves illegal. Go to their website and they tell you your old stove must be scrapped and can’t be resold. Guess you’ll have to save those flycatcher eggs for a branding fire.

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 (www.thewesterner.blogspot.com) and is the founder of The DuBois Rodeo Scholarship (www.nmsu.edu/~duboisrodeo).