NMCGA Presidents Letter

by Pat Boone

New Mexico Cattle Grower’s Association President’s Message

Dear Fellow Members & Industry Supporters,

It would appear that the last few weeks of rain has loosened the mighty grip of our four-year-long drought. In talking with folks around the state I realize that some of us have received far less than others but I sense that we are all a bit more positive these days. I mean who doesn’t get a smile on their face seeing miles and miles of greening pastures along the roads and trails we travel?

July was an interesting, frustrating and productive month, sometimes all at the same time. The New Mexico Meadow Jumping Mouse continued to raise the ire of ranchers across the state. Not because the critter itself is disrupting access to livestock water but because of the arbitrary and capricious actions of the United States Forest Service (USFS) to protect the mouse from ungulates (meaning cows, not elk) in what’s being called “occupied habitat” (not an Endangered species Act term) even before critical habitat has been designated. What really chaps my hide is that the mouse is just another surrogate species in the mission creep of radical environmentalists to remove livestock from federal land use mandates without the need to pass legislation.

Some legislation was passed recently though by the US House of Representatives who are trying to make rational yet modest changes to the Endangered Species Act (ESA) for the first time in 26 years. The bill, H.R. 4315, the “Endangered Species Transparency and Reasonableness Act” seeks to 1) require that data used by federal agencies in ESA listing decisions be made available to the public electronically while respecting private data; 2) require the federal government to disclose data to affected states before making an ESA listing decision, using the best available data, including data from local, tribal and state governments; 3) tracking and reporting to Congress funds used in responding to ESA lawsuits, fees awarded as a result of litigation, and the number of US Fish and Wildlife Service employees dedicated to ESA litigation; and 4) placing reasonable caps on attorneys’ fees to make ESA litigation consistent with federal law. Notwithstanding these common sense changes, 45 percent of the House of Representatives voted against the bill and its chances of being heard in the Senate are slim and none, because there are currently several hundred other bills that have yet to be heard. And that is my frustration with the system, because it appears that accountability to the American people is somehow unreasonable.

And then there was the meeting at White Sands Missile Range regarding the proposal for the Department of Defense to take over lands north of the missile range from the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) as a result of the proposed alignment of the Sun-Zia power line from New Mexico to Arizona and beyond. Prior to that meeting I didn’t fully appreciate the history of displacement and sacrifice that the ranching families in that area have endured over time but I sincerely hope that their concerns can be addressed.

What I recall from that meeting is that the ranchers in the so called “Northern Extension“ of the missile range would prefer to continue their relationship with the BLM into the future, given that the Department of Defense isn’t necessarily a land management agency. (Please be on the lookout for a comprehensive history of the White Sands Missile Range in a future article.)

On the productive side of the equation four of us New Mexicans, Ronnie Rardin, A. Blair Dunn, Michael Lucero and I, had the opportunity to testify before the House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Public Lands and Environmental Regulation regarding “Threats, Intimidation and Bullying by Federal Land Managing Agencies” in Washington, D.C. Additionally, I was invited to the National Cattleman’s Beef Association summer meeting in Denver to speak about the civil rights abuses of allotment owners by the USFS in northern New Mexico and southern Colorado. The presentations we collectively gave were very eye opening for both audiences and will hopefully lead to legislation in the future to hold accountable those federal agents who have threatened, discriminated or retaliated against Americans in violation of their civil rights.

Until next time, take comfort in your faith, family and friends.

José Varela López