N.M. Federal Lands News

by Frank DuBois

The Federal Land Council News

My column this month is about jaguars, wolves, a jewel, & two different kinds of buffers.


The New Mexico and Arizona game departments have bothexpressed opposition to the USFWS’s proposed designation of critical habitat for the jaguar.

In their comments to the feds the NM Game & Fish Dept. said, “based on the best available scientific evidence, there are no areas in New Mexico that provide physical or biological features essential to the conservation of the species.” The dept. went on to say the habitat in NM “probably is and always was marginal for the species” and concluded “the Department is strongly opposed to designating critical habitat in the State.”

The Arizona Game & Fish stated in their comments, “We request that USFWS withdraw the proposed rule because habitat essential to the conservation of the jaguar as a species does not exist in either Arizona or New Mexico under any scientifically credible definition of that term.”  The dept. concluded, “AGFD remains convinced that critical habitat designation is inappropriate under the ESA or necessary to conform with the court decisions that USFWS assures us drives it in that direction.”

Let’s talk politics. In 1997 and 2006 the USFWS issued decisions that designation of critical habitat for the jaguar would not be prudent. That was their scientific findings under Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush. Apparently something happened in 2008 that caused their “science” to change. Can you tell me what that was?


Our friends at the Center for Biological Diversity have filed a lawsuit that challenges a permit issued by the USFWS. The permit allows state and federal agencies to capture wolves that have entered our state from either the north or south. That means if a wolf comes in from Mexico or down from the Rockies there would be no trapping. This cha`nges nothing for those living in the current recovery area. But for those living north of Interstate 40 and south of Interstate 10, you better practice a really mean sounding SHOO, as that may be your only option.

And speaking of wolves, seventy-two Members of Congress, including the Chairman of the House Resources Committee,have written to the USFWS urging the agency delist the gray wolf from the Endangered Species Act. The letter says, “wolves are not an endangered species and do not merit federal protections. The full delisting of the species and the return of the management of wolf populations to State governments is long overdue.”

None of our three Representatives signed the letter.

Jewell Confirmed

Sally Jewell was easily confirmed by the Senate to be our next Secretary of Interior. The vote was 87-11, with Senators Udall and Heinrich voting in the affirmative.

About her nomination, Senator Udall said, “Sally Jewell is a unique and exciting pick to head up the Department of the Interior. If confirmed, she would bring to the position an array of skills from her business background in energy development and as the CEO of a wildly successful outdoor outfitter.” And Senator Heinrich said, “Sally Jewell will be an outstanding Secretary of Interior . . . I am confident that Ms. Jewell will use science as her guide in addressing the challenges that lie ahead, including managing our nation’s land and water, and expanding safe and responsible energy production. Ms. Jewell shares my commitment to Indian Country and to protecting our natural heritage for our children and for generations to come.”

Military Buffers

Senator Heinrich, along with Senators Udall and Cornyn, has introduced legislation to add buffer zones for White Sands Missile Range and Fort Bliss.  “This bipartisan effort will help to add critical safety, security, and planning buffers to White Sands Missile Range and Fort Bliss, and it will play an integral role in accomplishing their national security missions,” said Sen. Heinrich.

According to Heinrich, the legislation would implement two land exchanges and “preclude the BLM from selling or exchanging 35,550 acres of land in order to prevent incompatible development” for Fort Bliss.

The military is attempting to establish these buffer zones at bases across the west, and it does make sense for them to do so.  However, in their last report to Congress, the Dept. of Defense reported it owned 28 million acres. That’s an area larger than five of our original thirteen states . . . and would take one heck of a buffer.

Heinrich’s bill is an example of the legislative branch providing a buffer to the executive branch. A buffer against us. If I was to introduce a bill it would create a buffer alright, a buffer between the individual and all three branches of “incompatible”government.

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).