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N.M. Federal Lands News

All of us were saddened and angered by the senseless murder of Rob Krentz on his ranch along the border in southeastern Arizona. We were saddened because we all know what the loss of a father of a ranching family means to that family and the community. We are angered because it shouldn’t have happened. In the weeks since there has been a lot of posturing and empty promises of action by various politicians and government officials. The Arizona legislature and Governor Jan Brewer are the only ones who have taken action that may lead to change. Governor Richardson has called for deployment of National Guard troops along the New Mexico side. As Frank wrote in last month’s column, federal land use designation is an issue that has not adequately been addressed in the discussions on border security. To that end a forum on the impact of land use designation was held in Las Cruces on May 11. Retired Border Patrol officials and a retired US Army general with experience in border security issues detailed the current problems and potential threats due to our lack of enforcement of border security. They explained why it is so hard to stop illegal immigration, smuggling and other criminal activity with restrictive land use designation along the border. In a world where crazy Islamist’s advocate destruction of our country by virtually any means possible, neglecting to effectively control what comes across our southern border is incredibly stupid. That may sound a little harsh but there just isn’t any other way to say it. One of the most underreported facts about border security is that illegal aliens from terrorist countries have been apprehended entering the US from Mexico. How many have already gotten through and what are their intentions? The other issue is the criminal activity controlled by Mexican drug cartels that likely led to the murder of Rob Krentz. The retired Border Patrol officials who spoke at the forum described a level of brutality in the crimes committed by these people that most of us can’t even comprehend. And in what should be a loud alarm to congress and the administration, these groups are now taking on the Mexican government. As the situation in Mexico deteriorates it increases the problems on this side of the border. Along the Mexican border in Arizona the special land use designations including wilderness areas, wildlife refuges and national monuments make it easier for the smugglers and handicap the Border Patrol. In fact some areas are now closed to the public because anyone who enters puts his life at risk. We should be talking about removing restrictive land use designations along the border, not increasing them. But, our two US Senators have introduced S.1689, the Doña Ana County Wilderness Bill. That our congressional delegation would even contemplate legislation that would make the job of enforcing border security more difficult underscores how out of touch they are with reality. During the question and answer session at the end of the forum someone asked if he was expected to just “give up” wilderness in Doña Ana County? In reality we no longer have that choice along the southern border. All attributes of wilderness have been destroyed by criminals who have no respect for human life let alone such refined concepts as “designated wilderness area”. Several weeks ago an internal Interior Department memo was leaked concerning recommendations for National Monument designation under the Antiquities Act by the Obama administration. When the rumors surfaced, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar admitted there had been some preliminary discussions but there were no plans to designate new National Monuments and there would be plenty of consultation and “collaboration” with local governments and the public beforehand if there ever were such plans. Representative Bob Bishop of Utah requested copies of the documents. For some reason he has still not received them. If there is nothing in those documents to hide, why have they not been released? Wasn’t this the administration that came into office promising “transparency and openness” in cases like this? At least one of the areas discussed was in southern New Mexico. How far from the border and were border security issues among the topics discussed in the as yet unreleased Interior documents? And as important as these issues are to New Mexico, especially southern New Mexico it is curious that Congressman Harry Teague has not been appointed to the Natural Resources Committee as the last three previous Congressmen from his district have. Martin Heinrich who represents Albuquerque is currently on the Committee and Ben Ray Lujan has just been appointed to it. The Natural Resources Committee oversees the Interior Department and has considerable influence over land use issues. Congressman Teague serves on the Committees for Veteran’s Affairs and Transportation and Infrastructure. A coalition of environmental groups has come together under the umbrella of “New Mexico Wildways”. The event actually occurred last summer. In December they issued a press release describing the Janos Biosphere Reserve, a 1.3 million acre wildlife preserve in northern Chihuahua. It has 35 miles of contiguous boundary with southern New Mexico’s Peloncillo Mountains. New Mexico Wildways would like to establish a “wildlife corridor” from Alaska to Mexico. “Wildlife corridor” is another of those cute new age terms that means an area as large as they can get designated that is devoid of any human activity like ranching or border security enforcement. A wildlife corridor will quickly become a smuggling corridor especially if restrictive designations like wilderness or wildlife preserve are granted. On a different topic, a solar energy project is being planned for Chevron Corp’s mining property near Questa. Said to be the largest in the country, the solar panel array will cover 20 acres and generate 1 megawatt of electricity, enough for about 700 homes. Generally solar projects are the most environmentally unfriendly; they require the area to be virtually devoid of vegetation. In this case the solar panels will be placed over 20 acres of mine tailings that are devoid of vegetation anyway. It is ironic that the environmentalists who clamor for more renewable energy are the same ones who oppose solar and wind farms because of the environmental problems associated with them. Wind turbines are hazardous to birds and huge eyesores on the viewscape. Solar farms are constructed over a sterilized landscape that won’t produce vegetation and the attendant vegetative litter and fire hazard. They both need environmentally intrusive high voltage transmission lines to carry the generated power to energy consumers in urban areas. New Mexico has mandated that all electric utilities derive 20 percent of their power from renewable sources by 2020 (at whatever the cost to the consumer). Weatherwise, we have had a great spring over most of New Mexico so far. Lately there has been a lot of hot, dry wind that has really dried things out. The National Weather Service is predicting average to warmer temperatures and only normal rainfall for most of the state through the summer. Let’s pray for rain and the Good Lord’s blessing on all of us.     n