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To The Point

by Caren Cowan

Over the Top . . .

I live under a black helicopter . . . big one. But I heard something the other night that makes me look like . . . well I am not sure what, but it certainly contemplated a greater conspiracy than I have ever considered.

There is a theory out there that forest fires are being set by aliens. Not the illegal two-legged kind that cross our border with Mexico. We already know for sure they are responsible for some catastrophic fires.

These people were talking space aliens. The claim is that the Waldo Canyon Fire in Colorado in 2012 was caused by something unknown dropping from the sky. The television program went on to note that a UFO was seen above the fire right along with helicopters during the fire.

According to the Denver Post months after the fire, the conclusion was that the fire was human caused but without a tip or confession there would never be anyone caught. But why would space aliens be starting fires on Earth? Well, they have an answer to that. They are trying to drive humans from the planet. If there was an explanation as to why space aliens want to drive us from this planet, I fell asleep before they got there.

I do have trouble subscribing to this theory . . . although I don’t think it is a far stretch to consider that eco-terrorists or other terrorists may use forest fires to drive people from the land. As we move deeper into fire season I pray that we may escape the killing fires that have plagued the West for the past several years.

What did we ever do . . .

To cause the New Mexico Attorney General’s (AG) office to dislike property owners in general and agriculture specifically? The validity of this question is no conspiracy theory. It is a three strikes and you are out tale.

As I hope everyone is aware, New Mexico’s agricultural exemption for workers’ compensation has been under attack for many years. The office of the Attorney General had the opportunity to solve the issue and didn’t. The efforts of the Center on Law & Poverty included the filing of a lawsuit in State District Court claiming workers compensation payment for a few individuals. The case was misfiled. It should have been filed via the Workers’ Comp Administration as set out by state law.

Under the previous state administration, the defense of the suit was handed over to the AG. Rather than immediately filing a motion to dismiss the case because it was in the wrong court, the AG’s office allowed the case to proceed. It gets worse.

Rather than mount a defense or even consult with anyone in the ag community, the AG’s office stipulated (agreed to) some 372 “facts” about agriculture, including a statement that agriculture had routinely abused its workers for 100 years. It doesn’t even take a good guess to know what the outcome of that case was. This is an issue that the New Mexico Cattle Growers’ Association and its sister organizations are still fighting in the courts.

Then last year the AG’s office got involved in the humane horse slaughter issue, spending hundreds of thousands of state tax dollars in an effort to see that horses will continue to suffer and die terrible deaths. The issue was in the federal courts, where the anti-human folks lost, so the AG took it to State District Court where it remains. Not only were state dollars used, but attorneys from the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) were allowed to represent New Mexicans before the Environmental Improvement Board.

The latest slap in the face (or something worse) is an AG’s opinion that sets the stage for huge conflict between landowners and trespassers. Attorney General Gary King’s nonbinding legal “opinion” holds no force of law, finds that people can fish in privately owned streams as long as they don’t set foot on stream banks. People can wade upstream or downstream on to YOUR property. According to the opinion written by a staff attorney and signed by King says “walking, wading or standing in a stream bed is not trespassing.”

Walking, wading or standing in a  stream bed all infer that there is something below the water but it apparently isn’t property according to the AG.

“This opinion reverses decades of actual practice,” Garrett VeneKlasen, the New Mexico Wildlife Federation’s executive director, said in a statement, “and we all — sportsmen, landowners, the Game and Fish Department — need some time to assess the implications and figure out how to implement the changes. For starters, we’ll need to implement an intensive stream-steward program, widespread educational and outreach effort to anglers and landowners to prevent conflicts. This is not going to be an easy transition, but it is a red-letter day for New Mexico anglers.”

Elections are coming!

If you didn’t have a reason to be sure and vote in the upcoming New Mexico Primary Election slated for June 3, 2014, I hope you have now. Registration for the primary is open until May 6.

And, please don’t assume that all of your family, friends, neighbors and business associates are registered or that they make it to the polls. Ask them. If they are not registered, get them registered. Offer a ride to the polls. Do what it takes to get their vote in the ballot box.

But before that, be sure you know the candidates and what they stand for. Make sure they know you and what you stand for. EVERY office is important and if we don’t do our part to make sure the best person wins, shame on us and we have nothing to complain about.

On the federal level, who is supporting the hijacked version of the Senate Grazing Improvement Act that takes grazing permits from 10 years to 1 to 20 years with many new requirements; that codifies the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) for grazing; that allows for 25 allotments annually to be permanently retired? Who is supporting the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks Monument that will impact 9,000 head of cattle, not counting calves, and 1,158,391 acres of comingled federal, state, and private lands in just one New Mexico County? Who is supporting turning the Valles Caldera National Preserve over the National Park Service? Who is taking the fight to the U.S. Forest Service for New Mexico ranchers? Who is fighting against the federal government turning vicious predators loose in larger numbers with no compensation for the loss of property not to mention spiritual and peaceful enjoyment? Who is fighting for the humane treatment and dignity of horses? Who will fight to protect our water rights?

I could go on, but you get the picture. If we want to complain about our plight, we must hold our elected officials accountable for their actions and hold ourselves accountable for doing EVERYTHING we can to elect people who represent OUR needs.

If that’s what it takes . . .

The plight of ranching families in the West is getting some long overdue attention thanks to Cliven Bundy. Like most other issues in the “popular” media you can read anything you want about Mr. Bundy ranging from him and his family being heroes for their valiant stand against the federal government to claims that he is a dead beat rancher.

Unfortunately if Mr. Bundy had done everything the federal government told him to do, he would be out of business just like the other 52 ranches that were once in Clark County Nevada . . . just like thousands of other ranching families that have been driven from the land across the West. Mr. Bundy admits that he hasn’t paid fees to the federal government. Mr. Bundy has lost his fights in the courts. He reached the point that he had no other choice and he stands for what he believes.

I admit that on that Friday night when the national television news was focusing on some of the folks who rallied to help the Bundys that I was a wee bit nervous about the looks of some of those bushy headed fellows. I had forgotten Grandmother’s advice about not judging a book by its cover. The next morning when the news was the mounted cowboys carrying our nation’s flag, I couldn’t have been prouder.

I was sick to my stomach when Sheriff Richard Mack told the media that same day that the plan was to put the women in front if it looked like the feds were going to start shooting. I know what he was trying to say, but he should have enough media sense at this point in his life to know that the sound bite was going to stop just where it did.

As we look back at this war we have been fighting for well over 20 years just for the right to be here, I do wonder what the outcomes if there had been a Mr. Bundy sooner. It pains me to remember what Mr. Klump looked like in an orange jumpsuit and shackles in Federal District Court in Tucson. It makes me sick to remember what it was like sitting in Federal District Court in Albuquerque as we heard Kit Laney get sentenced to federal prison. It got worse as I helped Sherry from the court room only to have some radical environmentalist try to shove papers in her face. The coward ran before the men could be called.

Could we have done more? Should we have done more? There is no comfort in the fact that the timing probably wasn’t right in terms of the feelings of Americans toward their government that has completely run amuck; that we didn’t have the access to social media at that time and that few knew what was really happening on the ground. And, let’s face it, it was us as individuals who were being harmed.

One of things that the Cowan girls were taught as children was never to run from a fight or a storm. If someone was in need, you ran to help them. It would do us all well to remember that lesson.

With all due respect to the folks I have worked for and loved over the years, I cannot tell you the number of times that I have had a call to ask how to handle a situation. They didn’t want to raise a fuss, they just wanted quietly to handle their business on their own and could just use a little advice. They were sure they could work it out with whatever the authority was.

Generally it wasn’t six months until the manure had hit the fan and some of the opportunity for the best resolution was gone. We always seem to think we can handle a situation better than the neighbor did when faced with the same challenge.

The question was asked at a recent regional meeting, what we can do to keep things from happening to us that are harming folks in other areas. My answer is to run as fast as you can to the folks who are suffering and offer everything you might have to aide them . . . it won’t be long before it is you.

Don’t Fence Me In

Not enough space this month, but New Mexico’s fence out law is under attack again. There are steps being taken by communities and counties around the state. Stay tuned!

Regional Meetings

As you read this we will have completed a full set of regional meetings, plus a New Mexico Wool Growers Annual Meeting and wolf meetings in Winston and Glenwood. The participation in these meetings was almost overwhelming. We had great crowds at every meeting and plenty of lively discussion. Thank you to everyone that attended!

We have some new members as a result and a stronger band of warriors.

More Opportunity!

The first ever AgriFuture Educational Institute will be held May 12 to 14 at the Embassy Suites in Albuquerque. There is still time to late register. Just go to www.nmagriculture.org and look on the column on the left side. The Annual Indian Livestock Days will be May 14 through 16 at the Rt 66 Casino just west of Albuquerque on I-40.

The Mid-Year for New Mexico Cattle Growers’, New Mexico Wool Growers, New Mexico CowBelles, New Mexico Farm & Livestock Bureau and New Mexico Federal Lands Council will be held June 8 through 10 in Las Cruces. Events will be held at the New Mexico State University Golf Course (there isn’t a University of New Mexico course in Las Cruces), the Farm & Ranch Heritage Museum and the Las Cruces Convention Center. Registration materials will be hitting mail and email boxes soon.

Have you purchased YOUR NMCGA jacket, vest, tie or scarf? Help celebrate NMCGA’s 100th Birthday with NMCGA apparel! n