N.M. Federal Lands News

by Frank DuBois

The Federal Land Council News

My column covers prairie dogs, wolves, wilderness, VIP vacations and horrible school lunches

Prairie Dogs & Interstate Commerce

Contrary to some other court opinions, a federal court in Utah has held the authority of the USFWS to regulate the “take” of threatened species under the ESA does not extend to an intrastate species. The case is People For The Ethical Treatment of Property Owners vs. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. In 2012, the Feds issued a special rule for the Utah prairie dog that only exists in Utah. The rule allowed a “take” of the species on private property where prairie dogs “create serious human safety hazards or disturb the sanctity of significant human cultural or human burial sites.” The People For The Ethical Treatment of Property Owners sued saying the USFWS lacked the authority to regulate a purely intrastate species on non-federal land. The court agreed, ruling the “take” of the species does not substantially affect interstate commerce.  Courthouse News reports that several appeals courts have ruled the feds do have that authority, but for now land owners in Utah don’t have to get a federal permit to work or develop their property.


In early November four environmental groups and Dave Parsons, retired Mexican wolf recovery coordinator, filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court against the Feds alleging they have not provided a complete recovery plan for the Mexican gray wolf.

In late November (and on the same day I’m writing this) the USFWS released their Final Environmental Impact Statement to their proposed rule revisions governing the Mexican wolf. Near as I can tell their preferred alternative would a) triple the number of wolves, b) allow the initial release of wolves into the Gila National Forest and the Magdalena District of the Cibola National Forest, and c) expand the recovery area in New Mexico and Arizona to include all land south of I-10 to our border with Mexico.

Further, the USFWS lab has confirmed through DNA analysis that a female wolf inhabiting the north rim of the Grand Canyon is one of the Rocky Mountain wolf variety. In a released statement, the USFWS said the DNA results “indicate this wolf traveled at least 450 miles from an area in the northern Rocky Mountains to northern Arizona.” This species is fully protected by the Endangered Species Act.

And finally, the Ruidoso News reports a possible wolf sighting just north Ruidoso.  A man and his wife were walking in a subdivision and witnessed two wolves attack and drag a mature doe into the Bonito River. The man, one Alan Thomas, president of the local home owners association says it was a “vicious attack” and in a sign of things to come said, “I’m not naive enough to think there aren’t predators in this part of New Mexico, but seeing two wolves appear out of nowhere and grab a huge deer right off the pavement in broad daylight was a sobering reminder to be ever vigilant when walking, jogging or bicycle riding.”

New Mexico is about to become a very “wolfy” state, with the fully protected Rocky Mountain gray wolf north of I-40 and the experimental population of the Mexican gray wolf south of I-40. This will start to impact more and more residents, even higher education. The UNM Lobos fit right in, but the NMSU Aggies really doesn’t fit with our new “wolfy” status and they are due a name change. I would suggest the NMSU Trappers.

Columbine-Hondo Wilderness

Senator Martin Heinrich has announced the Columbine-Hondo Wilderness Act has cleared the Energy and Natural Resources Committee and awaits action by the full Senate. The legislation would designate as Wilderness 45,000 acres in the Carson National Forest in Taos County. Heinrich says the acreage has been managed as a Wilderness Study Area since 1980.

Forest Service litigation

The Society of American Foresters has published a new study providing litigation statistics for 1989 to 2008. During that time period, 1,125 lawsuits were filed in federal court over federal land management. The Forest Service won 53.8 percent, lost 23.3 percent and settled in 22.9 percent (that means the Forest Service “lost” 47 percent of the time and money was awarded to the enviro attorneys). The Forest Service was more likely to lose or settle cases in the last six years of the study. Of the lawsuits, 78.9 percent sought less resource use within the National Forest System. Eighty two laws governed the Forest Service’s land management decisions, according to the study. Plaintiffs alleged that the Forest Service violated the National Environmental Policy Act in 71.5 percent of cases, the National Forest Management Act in 48.8 percent of cases, and the Endangered Species Act in 17.6 percent of cases.

NEPA is a money bank for the enviros and is preventing scientific management of our forests and endangering nearby communities.  The new majority in Congress needs to fix this.

Interior IG probes VIP trips

The Inspector General for the Department of the Interior has begun a review of senior Obama administration officials using a vacation lodge in Wyoming’s Grand Teton National Park. In a Nov. 6 memo to Park Service Director Jon Jarvis, Deputy Inspector General Mary Kendall said her office would be conducting a review of his agency’s “management and operation” of the park’s Brinkerhoff Lodge. That review “will include an examination of management policies and practices associated with the operation of the Lodge, to include identifying what guests have used the Lodge without payment and for what purpose.”

Michelle’s military – too fat to fight?

I’ve written before on how the Pentagon is teaming up with Michelle Obama to push her anti-meat school lunch program.  Now a group of retired generals and admirals are saying childhood obesity is a threat to national security and have issued a report titled Too Fat To Fight which claims that a quarter of 17- to 24-year-old Americans are too heavy to join the military. The other 75 percent is not a big enough pool for you? Instead you are calling for “for school districts to limit the sale of junk food and for national legislation to enforce those limits and to fund better school lunch options.” In other words, more funding for Michelle Obama’s Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act.

These generals should remember we have an all volunteer military and our kids are not exactly buying in to Michelle’s diet.  Her quest for healthy school lunches has sparked a backlash from the very people who are served the grub in cafeterias across America. A campaign has gone viral where students take photos of their lunches and share them on Twitter using the hashtag #ThanksMichelleObama.

I would suggest to our friends in the military that you leave parenting on nutrition up to the parents. And since your own report admits there is a weight problem with folks already in the military, solve your internal problem before you start barking orders at others and finally, Super Size your tanks, not the government.

I’ll close with some good news. Rep. Rob Bishop of Utah will be the next Chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee. He’s a friend to federal lands ranchers. I’ve also just learned that Jason Knox will be his Chief of Staff. Jason is also a friend who has attended NM Cattle Growers’ meetings.

Here’s wishing everyone a Merry Christmas and a Very Prosperous New Year!

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).