N.M. Federal Lands News

by Frank DuBois

The Federal Land Council News


Topics this month are the unreliable and inefficient management of federal property, the elite setting aside land for the elite, and hogs going wild over Michelle’s menu


You will often see figures like the federal government owns 650 million acres or the feds claim ownership of 29 percent of the land mass in the U.S.

The truth is, the feds have no idea how much property they own, nor do they know the exact location of all of those lands for which they claim ownership. Believe me, I know this from personal experience.

In 1982 President Reagan created the Asset Management Program, whose purpose was to identify surplus, unneeded or hard to manage federal property and to dispose of it. By Presidential Order, the program was to be managed by a Property Review Board, a cabinet-level entity to be run out of the White House. That same year, the Property Review Board ordered an inventory of all lands owned by the Department of Interior, the Department of Agriculture and the Corps of Engineers.

That’s where Yours Truly comes in, as I staffed this program for Secretary Watt at Interior. To complete the survey I had to meet with all the land management agencies and bureaus within Interior.  This meant working with the BLM, Park Service, Fish & Wildlife Service, Bureau of Reclamation, Bureau of Mines and Bureau of Indian Affairs to discuss the inventory and methods of determining whether particular properties should be retained or put up for disposal. Two things became immediately clear: 1) Overnight I became the most unpopular person at Interior, and 2) There was no consistent method of identifying and tracking federal property. Those annual reports were estimates.  Guesstimates would be a more accurate description.

Politically, the program became unpopular and died.

Things aren’t any better today. The Government Accountability Office (GAO) has found the feds waste $2 billion a year managing 77,000 unneeded federal buildings. Another report says the BLM has identified 3.4 million acres for disposal as a result of their land use planning process, but the lands are still being retained. Other reports have shown the Department of Interior has 26 different financial systems and over 100 different property tracking systems and the Department of Defense has over 300 different property management systems.  You get the picture.

To remedy this, Senator Lisa Murkowski has introduced S. 1225, the Federal Land Asset Inventory Reform (FLAIR) Act.  This legislation would establish, once and for all, a “single, multi-purpose and uniform” computer data base to track these properties. Murkowski says with such a list of lands each agency can look at its inventory, dispose of unneeded property and identify and eliminate waste and duplication of activities. The Act specifically authorizes the Secretary to designate “any parcels…that can be better managed by ownership through a non-Federal entity, including a state, local, or tribal government, nonprofit organization, or the private sector.”  Let’s hope she gets it done.

Valles Caldera

Recall that Senator Heinrich got these 89,000 acres transferred from the Santa Fe National Forest to the Park Service as part of a political deal in last year’s National Defense Authorization Act.

The Park Service is now holding public hearings on management of the area, and we are beginning to see what the native folks and traditional users are up against –  limited access in general and a slow phasing out of most hunting and grazing. Yes, I know the legislation says there “shall” be grazing, but it also says, “at levels and locations determined by the Secretary to be appropriate.” Read Park Service policy on its website and you’ll find this: “The Service will phase out the commercial grazing of livestock whenever possible and manage recreational and administrative uses of livestock to prevent those uses from unacceptably impacting park resources.” Apply the general policy to the legislative language, and if you are seeking “commercial” livestock grazing, forget it. The whole thing is being set up to allow grazing for the “interpretation of the ranching history of the Preserve”, and that will probably mean Park Service cows managed by Park Service employees. Similar limitations are placed upon hunting and trapping.

Does anyone consider the NPS to be pro-hunting?  Pro-grazing?  Not exactly.

Members of the group Caldera Action have spent years advocating for National Park Service management because, their spokesmen says, the Park Service will police “wayward cattle”, they didn’t want it “treated like a piece of multiple-use land where you have…cows and litter”, but that “hiking and cross-country skiing” are less destructive.

A huge preserve has been set aside for the elite to camp, hike and convene with nature. The traditional uses made by the folks native to the area will be eliminated over time. That, I’m afraid, will be the final outcome of this Udall/Heinrich legislation.

Michelle O, broccoli bugs, hogs

Students in Conroe, Texas may never eat vegetables again.

Sorry, Michelle O, but as they started to bite down on their broccoli they discovered something else was there – bugs.

Falyn Evans and her friend were served the bug-infested broccoli for lunch and the two almost ate the insects before they realized they were there. Food inspectors showed up the next day and found more bugs. That was it for Falyn’s mom. “She will be taking lunches,” Evans told Click2Houston. “She will not be eating it anymore, at all.”

You see, it’s the pigs, not kids, who are going hog wild over Michelle O’s new school lunch nutrition standards.

In Rio Rancho, New Mexico, so many fruits and vegetables are being dumped by the students that Galloping Grace Youth Ranch is making daily pickups at several elementary schools. Their weekly haul is FIVE TONS! The ranch manager says it’s like a fresh salad bar each day and the hogs “love it.”

Put another way, the hogs are eating the First Lady’s lunch.

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).