N.M. Federal Lands News

by Frank DuBois

The Federal Land Council News

This month’s column covers changes in Congress, changes in a BLM handbook, Ted Turner’s ferrets and the First Lady’s continuing attacks on meat producers.

Congressional Oversight

The elections have brought what could be some exciting changes to Congressional oversight of the land management agencies.

Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) has been appointed Chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, and immediately announced the formation of an Interior Subcommittee to oversee Interior, EPA, and the Energy and Agriculture departments. Chaffetz said he’s deeply concerned about access to federal lands and the “ever expanding” size of the federal estate. Chaffetz said the Interior panel will take a microscope to three laws: The 1906 Antiquities Act (gives President authority to designate monuments), NEPA and the Endangered Species Act.  All three are important to anyone who lives in the West, be they private landowners or users of federal lands. Wyoming Republican Cynthia Lummis will chair the Interior Subcommittee.

Suspended AUMs

The BLM is proposing changes to their Grazing Handbook that would grant authority to field managers to remove suspended AUMs that are unlikely to be active in the foreseeable future when they reissue grazing permits. This could have a big impact on the value of grazing permits and also effect loans based on those permits. A BLM spokesman says the proposed changes are currently being reviewed by State Offices, that there is no requirement for public comment and they hope to finalize the changes by this summer.

Monument Grazing

Utah Senators Hatch and Lee will be introducing legislation titled Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument Grazing Protection Act. The bill is apparently in response to recent proposals to reduce grazing in the monument. In a statement Senator Hatch said, “When President Clinton designated the Grand Staircase-Escalante a monument, I called it ‘the mother of all land grabs.’ But BLM’s ongoing campaign to reduce grazing here makes its look more like a hijacking. We cannot stand idly by while work that previous generations have done is being undermined.” And Senator Lee said, “Grazing is a critical component of Utah’s rural economy and this amendment, if adopted, would preserve the grazing rights that Utah families have used for generations.”

The Senators have introduced an amendment to the Keystone pipeline legislation that has language on grazing in the monument. It says that any livestock grazing that was established prior to the designation shall be allowed to continue, subject to such reasonable regulation as the Secretary may deem necessary. That is followed by this language: on the condition that the Secretary shall allow the grazing levels to continue at current levels to the maximum extent practicable.

That’s pretty strong language and shows you what Senators who really care about the livestock industry can attempt on our behalf. They will be introducing a stand alone bill on this topic and we will monitor its progress.

Ted Turner and ferrets

The Vermejo Park Ranch, owned by Ted Turner, is seeking a permit from New Mexico to import black-footed ferrets.  USFWS’s ferret recovery coordinator, Pete Gober, says they are working with private landowners like Turner to implement a 10-year plan for boosting ferret numbers across the region. There are currently 21 reintroduction sites in the region. Under new rules, the State Game Commission will decide on the permit.

Michelle O causes global warming

How can I say that? Just follow me.

National Geographic reports “a third of all of the food that’s produced on our planet never reaches a table”, with it either being spoiled in transit or thrown out by the consumer. That equates to roughly 1.3 billion tons of food, worth nearly $1 trillion at retail prices, and causes a “staggering” amount of environmental damage.  Citing a U.N. report, they say that uses enough water to equal the entire flow of Europe’s largest river – the Volga. They claim the energy expended in the production, transporting, and packaging of wasted food generates 3.3 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide and that if food waste was a country, it would be the world’s third largest emitter of greenhouse gases.

Now let’s turn to school lunches and recall my November report about a survey conducted by the National School Boards Association. The survey was concerning the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act championed by the First Lady. It found the kids weren’t buying what USDA was giving away. Since the law passed in 2010, the survey found that 84 percent of the schools contacted were seeing an increase in “plate waste” as the kids were dumping that healthy stuff in the trash. In other words, more wasted food.

So for the first time ever I’m in agreement with National Geographic and the United Nations: Michelle Obama causes global warming!

No fries for small fry

USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service is proposing strict new guidelines that would prohibit the frying of meat at children’s daycare centers across the country. In their attempt to promote “health and wellness of children”, the USDA writes in the Federal Register: While facilities would not be permitted under this proposed rule to prepare foods on site by frying them, store-bought, catered, or pre-fried foods can still contribute large amounts of calories and saturated fat to a meal. Therefore, facilities are encouraged to limit all fried and pre-fried foods to no more than once per week.”

Instead of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, this administration is enforcing Don’t Fry, Don’t Serve.

They are the American Sniper, shooting at both ends of your operation – limiting grazing on one end and prohibiting consumption on the other.

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).