N.M. Federal Lands News

by Frank DuBois

The Federal Land Council News

Smokey Is The Bandit

My column this month covers marijuana, cracked windshields, jaguars and chickens

Forest Service law enforcement can take on a lone rancher, like Kit Laney, and there is not much reaction. But issue some tickets to folks on the Taos ski slopes and you generate national headlines.

On February 22 four Forest Service LEOs and a drug sniffing dog performed what they call a “saturation patrol” at Taos Ski Valley. They issued tickets for possession of marijuana and for having illegal prescription drugs. Did they find crack cocaine? No, it was for cracked windshields that they issued tickets. According to news reports this “saturation patrol” took place while there was a youth event and a fund raising event for cancer patients taking place.

An official with Taos Ski Valley says the LEOs “didn’t show respect to people” and “. . . I thought the officers, their demeanor was rude and out of line.” Urban New Mexico residents, say “howdy” to what rural residents have been putting up with for years.

Former Governor Gary Johnson, who lives at Taos Ski Valley said he wanted to know “who is ordering this and why?”  Well Governor, the answer is apparently centered round one word . . . quotas.

The Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) has released an email from Aban Lucero, the Patrol Commander for the Southwest Region of the Forest Service, to his patrol captains which states in part:

Understand, Director Ferrell has clearly indicated his expectations of LEOs issuing a minimum of 100 VNs per year, and as you can see we have approximately 70 percent of LEOs . . . who fall below that number. For FY 14, I expect these numbers to increase substantially.

If it walks and talks like a duck, it’s probably a duck . . . or in this case a quota.  A spokesman for PEER says, “It’s a unique law enforcement position to protect public land, protect our nature and forests, we shouldn’t be turning them into ticket dispensing machines to focus on minor city cop type crimes.” Amen.

I should point out the Forest Service Law Enforcement & Investigations unit is a separate and independent entity that reports directly to the Chief. They were ripped out from under line managers in 1993, and it’s high time they were returned to that status.


Under a rule recently finalized by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service jaguars will have 1,194 square miles of critical habitat in southern Arizona and New Mexico for their recovery. The designation includes the Baboquivari, Pajarito, Atascosa, Tumacacori, Patagonia, Santa Rita and Huachuca mountain ranges in Arizona; the Peloncillo Mountains that straddle the Arizona/New Mexico border; and the northern tip of the San Luis Mountains in New Mexico’s bootheel region.

The Arizona Game and Fish Department does not support the designation.  Assistant Director for Wildlife Management Jim deVos states, “I find it difficult to justify designating critical habitat for a species that is so rarely found in Arizona. In looking at the available data on the presence of jaguars, there has been no documentation of a female jaguar in Arizona for nearly a century. There have been long periods when no jaguar was even found in the state. Such designations should be based on good science and effective conservation, which are both lacking with this designation. This designation does nothing to further the conservation of the jaguar.” The department says the closest breeding population of jaguars is approximately 130 miles south of the international border between Arizona and Sonora, Mexico. Further, for many decades, the observations of jaguars in Arizona have been individual males, which clearly do not constitute a “population” given the lack of females and/or breeding pairs according to the department.  “With the absence of any documented breeding pairs in the U.S. for many decades and with an estimated population of no less than 30,000 jaguars and more than 99 percent of the jaguar’s range occurring outside of the United States, the Service’s recent declaration of critical habitat undermines the congressional intent for the Endangered Species Act (ESA),” says Larry Voyles, Arizona Game and Fish Department director.

Jaguars were placed on the federal endangered species list in 1997.

Don’t Chicken Out

According to a release from the Western Caucus, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Western Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies (WAFWA) have signed the Range-wide Oil and Gas Industry Candidate Conservation Agreement with Assurances for the Lesser Prairie-Chicken (CCAA), along with an accompanying environmental assessment. The agreement between USFWS, WAFWA, and the five range states allows private landowners who develop oil and gas on their lands to voluntarily enroll into the CCAA. Upon entering the CCAA, participants will pay mitigation fees when they perform certain actions that impact the lesser prairie-chicken or its habitat. These fees will then be used for conservation purposes.

“I want to commend FWS for working with the five range states to approve the Lesser Prairie-Chicken Oil and Gas CCAA,” said Chairman Steve Pearce. “This decision will provide certainty for private landowners as they continue to exercise their rights to develop the resources on their lands. Listing the lesser prairie-chicken as endangered threatens the economic stability of our communities. Fortunately, conservation and development are not mutually exclusive goals. FWS must continue to work with the five range states to fully implement the Lesser Prairie-Chicken Range-Wide Conservation strategy, which they endorsed last October. This plan added over 1.5 million acres of habitat to millions of acres already enrolled through other FWS approved conservation programs. Energy, agriculture and other industries have proven that they will put in the effort to ensure that the species will survive, and preclude the need for an endangered or threatened listing.”

BLM artists & FS lectures

Did you know the BLM has an artist-in-residence program? The BLM will host an artist for a week in April at the Wickersham Creek Trail Shelter in the White Mountains north of Fairbanks. The April 14–18 residence is open to emerging or established artists working in nearly any media — including painting, printmaking, photography, writing and music. The BLM provides transportation between Fairbanks and the cabin, but artists are responsible for their daily expenses. The BLM plans to sponsor more, possibly one for each season. The artist will be there April 14-18, and you should remember this on April 15 . . . when you’re paying your taxes.

And how about the Forest Service sponsoring “fireside lectures”? I thought those went out with FDR, but in Alaska the agency sponsors a weekly fireside lecture, the most recent being about “ancient trees”. I wonder if they have a quota on lectures.

Finally, the USDA has given $5 million to the University of Tennessee for its healthy eating program which dresses students up as fruits and vegetables and films them terrorizing the residence halls.  Doesn’t this sound like a vegetable-in-residence program?

Think I’ll take advantage of all three programs. Sit by the fire and paint awhile, then lecture awhile, and in between throw a few mountain oysters on the fire. When full I’ll dump the cabbage and carrots behind the cabin, collect my $5 million and head back to the ranch.

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).