To The Point

by Caren Cowan

Jesus Can’t Swim . . .

They say that the highest form of flattery is to copy someone. I hope Fox News financial analyst Stuart Varney sees it that way. I borrowed this headline from him.

​Mr. Varney was one of the keynote speakers at the 2013 National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) Convention. He did a really good job of putting an amusing face on what appears to an increasingly dismal financial outlook –- no matter what the rest of the media is saying.

Varney noted that the popular media delights in negativity . . . if Jesus walked on water today, the headline would be “Jesus Can’t Swim.”

​The reality is that lots of media would refuse to report the story in any manner because it involved religion.

​However, animal rights/environmentalists do not hesitate to play the religion card when it suits their purposes. Over the years we have often stood up against religious representatives who seem to believe that they are saving humans by managing the environment to their desires – never mind all that stuff about taking God out of government and the pledge of allegiance out of schools.

​During the HB 579 debate in the New Mexico House of Representatives Energy & Natural Resources Committee we were stunned to see the handouts provided to the Committee. One was a statement by Pope Benedict XVI made on November 16, 2009. The statement, Caritas in Veritate, Nos. 48-51, if you want to read what the whole thing was about, started with “the desire to possess and to exploit the resources of the planet in an excessive and disordered manner is the primary cause of all environmental degradation.”

​I am not a Catholic, but that statement does not tell me that the Pope opposes trapping. Trapping is a government regulated activity that has taken place on the planet for centuries. Trapping prevents exploitation of resources – it prevents excessive predation and provides for the use of animals in a sustainable manner.

​But don’t take my word for it, as reported by Stacy Matlock in the Santa Fe New Mexican, someone told the story much better than I can.

​“Thirteen-year-old Trenton Dale of Alamogordo, who testified before the House Energy and Natural Resources Committee Tuesday morning, represents what most people support – a youth who spends a lot of time outdoors.

But Dale also traps coyotes.

That put him on the wrong side of more than a dozen conservationists, hikers and animal-rights advocates at the committee meeting in support of House Bill 579, a measure that essentially bans wildlife trapping for fur or predation on public and private land in New Mexico.

The young man’s trapping skills, however, put him in the good graces of the three dozen sportsmen, state game managers, ranchers, outfitters and fellow trappers who gathered to testify against HB 579, sponsored by Rep. Bobby Gonzales, D-Taos.

Dale, who helps his parents on a ranch near Alamogordo, said he traps coyotes because they’re predators, and there are more of them every year.

“There are so many coyotes we can’t have cats, goats or chickens,” he told the committee. ​

He said he’s seen what coyotes do to calves and dogs. His family lost three calves to coyotes last year. He found his Jack Russell terrier dying in their driveway after a coyote attack. ​​

“I know about death and dying. It happens every day,” he said. “It is not a pretty sight.”

Like his father, he said, he respects coyotes and their ability to survive. But like other ranchers, he sees trapping as a way to reduce the coyote threat to livestock and his dogs. Selling their pelts is a way to make some much-needed cash instead of wasting them, he said.”

The jury (Committee) is still out so stay tuned for next month or watch for updates on Facebook on the outcome of this critical bill.

Coyote Murderers . . .

As distressing as the debate was on the trapping bill, it was a cake walk compared to HB 316, the bill at first aimed at eliminating “animal killing contests.” The bill was actually aimed at coyote “killing contests” and after several renditions it narrowed to that point.

As those who know much of anything about predator management and/or hunting contests, the contest isn’t about simply shooting coyotes, but about the skill of calling coyotes. Just like there are contests that involve calling for elk and water fowl. With no pun intended, coyotes are wiley and they don’t just hang around waiting for someone to drive by to shoot at them.

It appeared from the time of the introduction of the bill that it was greased. Although the initial bill went into the Chapter 77, the livestock code, the bill was referred only to the House Judiciary. Not only should have the bill gone to the House Agriculture & Water Committee for consideration, but most bills generally get referrals to at least two committees.

Instead of going to a committee of some expertise like most bills, HB 316 went straight to the Judiciary Committee. It took several weeks for the bill to be scheduled for a hearing. By the time the bill was heard, the bill was in its fourth version – and versions 2, 3 and 4 were not available to members of the public even as the bill was heard.

Like the trapping elimination measure, the room was crowded with proponents and detractors of HB 316. The opponents of the bill were asked to speak first. As usual, ranchers, hunters, trappers and interested citizens passionately yet respectfully, not only to the members of the Committee but to other members of the audience, gave their views on the bill.

Then came the proponents. The first one jumped out of his chair eyeing many of the ranchers across the room, first stating that ranchers had no right not to expect to have their cattle killed. Depredation was merely the risk of ranching. This is not the first time statements like this have been made and will not be the last. It is a free country and we are each entitled to our opinions.

Where he went from there was news and news that brought groans from a good part of the room. He stated that coyote hunting was a pathway to human murder. The response to this statement brought a sharp reprimand from the Chairman who noted that there was much disagreement with the ranchers, trappers, et al who had been polite while we were testifying.

The wacko then went on to say that he knew of scientific studies that supported his opinions – although he had none to present. Although there was lots of rhetoric about science from other supports of the bill, no science was ever presented.

As the clock ticked late into the evening and the discussion moved to questions and statements from the members of the Committee, the Committee Chairman stated that each member would have the opportunity for time to speak, but that the bill would be “rolled over.”

In legislative speak “rolled over” means that the bill will be continued into the next committee meeting by contrast when a bill is “passed over” it means that there is a strong likelihood that the bill will come up again later in the same committee meeting.

At the end of the discussion on the bill, the Chairman again stated that the bill would be rolled over and asked that the room be cleared before the next bill was heard so that there would be room for people interested in that measure. Like the dutiful citizens we all are, we cleared the room and began to plan further steps including having people at the next committee hearing.

The last man out quickly rained on our parade. He had overheard discussion among a few committee members planning to bring the bill back that night. Many of us trooped back into the hearing room, which wasn’t anywhere near full. At the conclusion of the bill that was supposed to fill the room, the Committee took a dinner break. We sat through it.

As the night became late, one Committee member asked us why we were still there – we answered that everybody had to be somewhere. He noted that our lives must be boring.

Finally about 10:30 here came the bill sponsor with yet another version of the HB 316 . . . not that we were provided with the courtesy of a copy of the measure. In a short period of time the bill was passed out of the Committee and sent to the House Floor.

It was nearly noon the next day before we were able to obtain a copy of the bill that passed through the Committee. It was version 6 – we never have seen a version 5. The bill didn’t appear on the Legislative website until late in the afternoon of that same day.

In the end the bill went down on a 30 to 38 bipartisan vote.

Legislative Speak

Over the years I have often written about the activities of the Legislature and sometimes even individual members of the body. That is with some risk because not everyone agrees with my perspective, just like I do not agree with theirs.

Probably my biggest blunder was just that. I was inarticulate in my phrasing and once the ink was on the paper, there was no room for a “what I meant to say.”

As I wrote this column I was extremely mindful of potential consequences. I am totally respectful of New Mexico’s citizen legislators who do the business of the state for no pay and little thanks. Clearly we do not all hold the same views and that is a good thing. It is our differences that create the in-depth study of every aspect of issues necessary to reach what we hope is a fair conclusion.

During the endless election campaign season just concluded, we heard a lot about transparency and accountability. The biggest disappointment with the story I just told is from where I sit, the actions surrounding HB 316.6 was everything but transparent.

There are two morals to the story. The first is that it is necessary for there to be many, many people at the Legislature every day and night to witness the happenings. The second is that there is opportunity at every step of the legislative process for change and that change does happen.

Thank you to all who were and are in Santa Fe, to those who are following the process on the web and on Facebook and to those who contacted their legislators so that good bills move and bad bills don’t.

Poor Babies . . .

The latest negative outcome of “climate change” . . . less productive workers. According to CBS news, people cannot work as much when it is warmer and more humid.

Jeez I wish someone had explained this to Bobby Cowan. The humidity was never much of an issue, but if there was work to be done, the temperature wasn’t an issue.