To The Point

Latino Sustainability Institute & Other Poster Children.

You may have seen a very well done television commercial over the past several weeks during prime time. That ad is brought to you by the Latino Sustainability Institute (LSI), a new group that states that its mission is: “to promote conservation policies across New Mexico among Latinos;

to educate and engage Latinos in conservation policies, issues and values; to build relationships across organizations with conservation groups and Latino organizations; and to support Latino land and water-based organizations and communities and other Latinos working on broad conversation issues.”
According to the group’s president, Albuquerque-based Arturo Sandoval, on a KUNM radio program in October, one of the purposes of the group is to demonstrate that Hispanics are concerned with more than jobs and the economy. The other officers are Jim Baca, Vice President and Michelle Otero, Secretary/Treasurer. There is also an Advisory Board comprised of 16 individuals from Silver City to Chimayo. However half of them are from the Santa Fe/Albuquerque area.
Along with Project New America Latino, LSI’s first public project was the Hispanic Conservation Values New Mexico Statewide Survey published in September 2011. The survey of 600 Hispanic registered voters in New Mexico was done by the Washington, D.C. based firm Gerstein / Bocian / Agne Strategies. The firm is also employed by Congressman Martin Heinrich who is now running for the U.S. Senate, the National Education Association, State Senator Eric Griego who is now running for Heinrich’s congressional seat, Forest Ethics and many others.
The survey overview states that 500 of the interviews were conducted statewide with an additional 100 interviews in the third congressional district and the data was “weighted to reflect the overall distribution of Hispanic registered voters statewide,” whatever that means. The survey claims some pretty startling results for those of us who have worked on the ground for decades and those with centuries of stewardship in the family.
Like anything else, the answer to a question is dependent upon how the question is asked. Who wouldn’t be concerned about drought and water scarcity or increased risk of forest fires and damage to watersheds?
Digging just a bit deeper uncovers the real agenda of the group and the survey. The survey finds that there is “broad support of designating new national monuments.” Here is how the question was prepped and asked: “As you may know, National Monuments are similar to national parks. This designation provides protection from development to public lands, such as White Sands, Bandelier, Gila Cliff Dwellings, and El Morro. Federal law allows the President to designate new national monuments on public land already owned by the federal government. This would allow continued public use for recreation, including hunting and fishing, but prohibit new oil drilling, mining and other forms of development. Do you favor or oppose the President designating additional public lands as National Monuments in New Mexico?”
With an intro like that, it is pretty amazing that only 58 percent of the respondents favored additional designations. What the respondents were not told is the fact that hunting is not allowed on ANY of the monuments mentioned and forest fires have ensured there will be no fishing any time soon on the one that would allow that use. Broken down by voter registration, 64 percent of the Democrats supported additional designations, while 59 percent of Independents and 45 percent of Republicans felt the same way.
On the subject of grazing, the interviewers read: (Some/Other) people say that these [grazing] regulations are important in order to protect public land, water, and wildlife from overuse that makes it less productive. Our public land and water are part of our community’s cultural traditions, and we need to leave it in better shape for our children than we found it. (Some/Other) people say being able to control our public land and make a living off of it is part of our cultural tradition. The government needs to stop trying to tell us what we can do with our public land, water and wildlife. It’s our land and we have the right to use it. Having heard these statements do you favor or oppose regulations that place limits on how much cattle grazing can be done on public lands in order to protect the land from overuse?
To this lopsided question, 61 percent of those asked favored more regulation. I don’t know of anyone who has ever espoused that any land, federal, state or private should be “overused.” Only 31 percent of the respondents were involved in farming or ranching or had a family member that was. Yet supposedly 56 percent of those involved in farming or ranching support more federal regulation.
The greatest example of how out of touch the folks behind this survey are with Hispanic/Latino (the difference?) feelings in Northern New Mexico is the lawsuit filed in mid January against the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) by ranchers and Rio Arriba County for cuts in grazing numbers.
This disparity begs the question, who was surveyed? Over half, 55 percent, of the respondents were women. Only 39 percent of those surveyed were connected to social media and 56 percent of them considered themselves “liberal” or “moderate.”
A good portion of the survey was aimed at the oil and gas industry, asking for more money from the Land & Water Conservation Fund. The primary source of income to the fund “is fees paid by oil and gas companies drilling offshore in waters owned by the American people.” Another question addressed the need to stop tax breaks for oil and gas companies. The survey was clearly the basis for the current ad campaign, which is one of many running on YouTube at least right now.
The LSI page has a place for comments on the New Mexico commercial. At press time there were only three, two in support and this one: “This is so blatantly political-biased and a total lie. Too bad the Latino Sustainability folks are wasting the dollars we have contributed for resource protection on TV adds that are completely false.” It would be interesting to know what dollars they are talking about.
The “star” of the commercial is Kent Salazar, past president of the New Mexico Wildlife Federation, short term Richardson appointee on the New Mexico State Game Commission, and recently appointed by President Obama to the Valles Calderas Preserve Board of Trustees.

Close encounters

While some across the nation continue to howl for Mexican wolf reintroduction in someone else’s back yard because “society said so,” one young New Mexican mother has had her fill for a lifetime. In mid December Crystal Diamond came home from a trip with her two little girls to find a wolf literally in the yard. After a terrifying night with the wolf looking in the window of the house, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (FWS) did what they had promised and lethally removed the wolf before someone got hurt.
One would think that this encounter would be enough for a lifetime. Unfortunately for Crystal, not so much. In late January she was on the way to town when one of the girls got car sick. Crystal pulled over to clean up the child. Little sister was none too happy that she had to remain in the car in her car-seat and proceeded to get pretty fussy.
About the time Crystal put a cleaned up big sister in the car she felt the presence of something watching her. She turned to see another wolf not 20 yards from her. She closed the child in the car, jumped into the driver’s seat and snapped several photos of the animal standing there watching her.
One can feel empathy for all involved. This wolf has been spotted many times hanging around local small communities and clearly is looking for company. How long do we make animals and people suffer?
Word is that the FWS is using food aversion therapy to cause the wolves to dislike the taste of beef. That’s all well and good, but what about horses, dogs, cats and others falling prey to the wolves?
Livestock depredation is a huge concern when it comes to wolves, but it is only a part of a complicated mess that looks like it is trending to something worse rather than better.

The news doesn’t get better

In late January the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) Service announced the final Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement (PEIS) for the planning rule will be published in the Federal Register in early February, bringing the agency one step closer to a new rule. The initial Notice of Intent was published in December 2009. After receiving and considering 300,000 comments on the draft environmental impact statement and proposed rule, the Forest Service developed Modified Alternative A as the preferred alternative.
While there has been an opportunity to review the new rule, but there was a telephonic press conference with Secretary Tom Vilsack and others regarding the rule. The words range or grazing were never mentioned but recreation, watershed, and restoration were used often. One speaker said the rule places a “high priority on recreation” citing it as the “central consideration” in developing forest plans.
Highlights of the preferred alternative include:
• Plans must include components that seek to restore and maintain forests and grasslands.
• Plans would include requirements to maintain or restore watersheds, water resources, water quality including clean drinking water, and the ecological integrity of riparian areas.
• Plans would be required to provide habitat for plant and animal diversity and species conservation. These requirements are intended to keep common native species common, contribute to the recovery of threatened and endangered species, conserve proposed and candidate species, and protect species of conservation concern.
• Plans would provide for multiple uses, including outdoor recreation, range, timber, watershed, wildlife and fish.
• Plans would be required to provide opportunities for sustainable recreation, and to take into account opportunities to connect people with nature.
• Opportunities for public involvement and collaboration would be required throughout all stages of the planning process. The preferred alternative would provide opportunities for Tribal consultation and coordination with state and local governments and other federal agencies, and includes requirements for outreach to traditionally underrepresented communities.
• Plans require the use of the best available scientific information to inform the planning process and documentation of how science was used in the plan.
• The planning framework provides a more efficient and adaptive process for land management planning, allowing the Forest Service to respond to changing conditions.
The Under Secretary of Agriculture will review the alternatives in the PEIS and issue a final rule and record of decision approximately 30 days after publication. There USFS says there will be several opportunities to contribute to the planning process once a final rule is issued. Directives will be developed to provide more specific direction on how to consistently implement the new rule, and the public will have an opportunity to comment on the directives before they’re finalized. Forests and grasslands will soon begin revising and amending their plans under the new rule and there will be opportunities to be involved throughout those processes, the agency says.
Then there is the stuff you just don’t know what to think about.
According to the San Francisco Chronicle, animal-rights activists are taking responsibility for an arson fire that destroyed 14 cattle trucks at the sprawling Harris Ranch in the San Joaquin Valley off Interstate 5 in early January.
The fire broke out at the feed lot truck-storage facility at the ranch about 3:45 a.m. Sunday, said Fresno County sheriff’s Deputy Chris Curtice. In an email sent to the media, the North American Animal Liberation Press Office said it had received an anonymous message from someone with specific details about the fire at the Coalinga ranch, one of the largest farming operations in the San Joaquin Valley.
“We were extremely pleased to see all 14 trucks ‘were a total loss,’” the message said. “We’re not delusional enough to believe that this action will shut down the Harris feeding company, let alone have any effect on factory farming as a whole,” the email said. “But we maintain that this type of action still has worth, if not solely for the participant’s peace of mind, then to show that despite guards, a constant worker presence and razor wire fence, the enemy is still vulnerable.

Then there is

Agriculture, Useless?
A Yahoo! News article highlighted the top five most “useless” college majors . . . with agriculture coming in the top spot, followed by animal science (#4), and horticulture (#5).
As Sara Hubbard blogged on, agriculture is much more than a college major or career. It is a way of life that impacts millions upon millions of people around the globe every time they sit down for breakfast, lunch, or dinner. Food production will remain a key component of our nation’s future success. We need to show young people from all walks of life the opportunities and benefits of pursuing a career in the industry. College-level agriculture classes often introduce suburban or urban students to the realities and opportunities of farming – an important chance to increase the number and diversity of future farmers. And the research conducted by many agricultural universities is anything but useless.