To The Point

To The Point

by Caren Cowan

My Way . . . Or the Highway

Some may think this is my motto. But it isn’t. Really. I am blessed to work for and with the best people in the world, both within the membership of the New Mexico Cattle Growers’ Association (NMCGA) and in all the connections that we have from the Legislature to Congress and back.

Part of the reason I enjoy the work so much is that these folks are family. I can see my grandparents, uncles, aunts and parents in them every day. Sometimes it is scary, but part of the raising was to learn to take the good with the bad.

What is sometimes concerning is when the fierce independence turns to just plain stubbornness including the refusal to recognize that none of us are islands. Maybe the concept and the method to address a particular situation are not how we would have tackled the same task. But if a job is getting done, why do we want to throw rocks at it?

Rachel Thomas used to end all of her emails with “just imagine what we can do if we don’t care who gets the credit.” One of my favorites has been “let’s circle the wagons and point the guns OUTWARD.”

Warpath

The federal government has taken dead aim at New Mexico and its neighbors on all sides. If you have any doubt about this, just talk to the folks on the East Side where, despite groundbreaking work and the first ever joint conservation by five states (New Mexico, Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas and Colorado), they are in a fight for their lives as a result of a lesser prairie chicken “threaten” listing under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). Not only did this action NOT make the environmental community happy, but they have already filed a notice of intent to sue because they want more.

Or maybe you should visit with the northern New Mexico ranchers along with those in the Lincoln National Forest who are facing cuts because of a meadow jumping mouse who hibernates for more than half the year, but reportedly needs a 24 inch stubble height to survive. Even stranger is the fact that the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (FWS) thinks the critical habitat for the mouse ends at the fence line of the Valles Caldera National Preserve.

On the West Side folks have been suffering at the hands of federal predators that will likely be shared with other parts of the state sooner rather than later. A draft of an environmental impact statement (EIS) for the Mexican wolf is expected in the next few months that will change the rules of engagement for the program as well as a new “target” number of the vicious beasts.

Notice that I use the word “target,” not recovery goal or delisting number. The FWS has been unable develop a recovery plan for the last 25 years. The number of 100 was just a number used in the 1998 EIS. We have learned that the number really didn’t/doesn’t mean anything. The latest recovery team effort hasn’t gathered for probably two years.

How would you like to be living in Doña Ana County where the President of the United States, with a stroke of a pen, chose to put the future of at least 95 families in Doña Ana County is in jeopardy? Those are just the ranching families within the Organ Mountains Desert Peaks National Monument. That doesn’t take into account all the businesses those families support or the 9,000 head of cattle that are within the designation. There were 800 local businesses who signed letters or petitions opposing the designation. A non-scientific poll conducted by the Las Cruces Sun News found that less than 50 percent of the folks in the area supported the action. The monument designation takes in 500,000 acres. Many believe that it will take another step in reducing border security as well. Needless to say the folks whose land and livelihoods fall within the designation are still trying to figure out which end is up. Not far away in Otero County and the Lincoln National Forest the battle that has raged for more than 20 years has heated to a new level. Like many, many other Western counties, the Otero County Commission is fed up with the federal government harming people and eliminating rural economic vitality. They have issued an order for their sheriff to cut the locks off the latest fence blocking water for ranchers.

Word is that the national public outcry has not yet deterred the U.S. Forest Service that has notified a neighboring allotment owner that he can expect to have his water fenced off by the fall. Distressing is the fact that the funding for these transgressions is coming from so-called sportsmen organizations at the request of the federal government. Don’t they know the hunters and fishermen will be next?

More distressing is that we see little protection of our rights coming from state leaders. The Office of the State Engineer for New Mexico is nowhere in sight.

In this election year we hear a lot about candidates who are so concerned about our water, our agricultural community and our children. However, precious few of them are around for the fight when necessary. Please remember that as you help candidates in the months to come. They need to understand that the issues we are facing are not just about ranchers and farmers — they are about eaters in this state, nation and world.

On The Other Hand . . .

You can be proud of the leadership the ranching community is demonstrating. May 31st ROR (Rally for our Rights) in Alamogordo drew “hundreds” of people according the media outlets who came. And they weren’t just the “locals.” Folks from all walks of life and from hundreds miles away thought it was important enough to be there. The ranchers were joined by county commissioners from across New Mexico as well as supervisors from Arizona. Northern New Mexico was represented as were the East and West Sides.

One lady from Roswell planned her weekend to be able to be at the Otero County Fairgrounds for the rally.

Watching the popular media and the internet also tells us we are not alone in this war. County commissions and boards of supervisors from Texas west and north are standing up for the rights of their citizens.

Just because the feds may not be at your doorstep today, you can be sure that it won’t be long before they are. There will be more gatherings to protest the cultural genocide that is at hand. We are all too busy to add one more things to our plate. But what will happen if we don’t?

WOTUS

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has come down with yet another rulemaking that has the potential of controlling ALL water in the United States by re-defining “waters of the United States” — WOTUS. Never mind that the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled twice on this issue. Never mind that Congress has refused to change this definition, this federal administration is hell bent on imposing their will on the people.

Jack Field, Lazy JF Cattle, Yakima, Washington, testified on Capitol Hill in late May on the matter. He told members of the House Small Business committee that the rule could make the standards of the USDA’s Natural Resource Conservation Services (NRCS) mandatory for any conservation practices on a ranch according to Sarah Gonzalez, Agri-Pulse Communications, Inc.

With the proposed rule, EPA issued a list of 56 agricultural conservation practices that would be exempt from Clean Water Act (CWA) permits. However, Field said if a conservation practice does not fall within that list or is not done to NRCS standards, it could fall outside the exemption for farming and ranching.

He pointed to a fence he built on his ranch to create a riparian pasture. He did not to follow NRCS specifications because of the extra cost involved. If the proposed rule had been in place, he would not have risked being in violation of the CWA or invested in seeking a CWA permit to build it.

Alan Parks, vice president of Memphis Stone and Gravel Company, Tennessee, and Tom Woods, owner of Woods Custom Homes, Missouri, testified that the proposed rule would increase risks of lawsuits against their businesses, cause construction delays and boost permitting costs.

They said they already face local and state regulations for potential discharge into waterways associated with construction. Representative Scott Tipton (R-CO) echoed several committee members’ sentiments when he called the proposed rule “the greatest water grab by the federal government in the history of the United States.”

The only witness defending the proposed rule was William Buzbee, the director of the Environmental and Natural Resources Law Program at Emory Law School in Atlanta. He said the law falls within the scope of rulemaking laid out by the Supreme Court and actually cuts back on EPA jurisdiction.

Representative Kurt Schrader (D-OR) joined the majority on the committee when he called Buzbee’s testimony “incredulous.”

“I don’t think anybody with a straight face can say this is anything but a huge grab of jurisdictional power at the end of the day,” Schrader said.

Schrader has co-sponsored a letter with Representative. Chris Collins (R-NY) signed by 231 House members asking EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers to withdraw the rule.

The rule effectively removes the term “navigable” from the CWAs’ definition with the phrase “significant nexus” that could extend government jurisdiction into ditches and ponds.

Committee Chairman Sam Graved (R-MO) sponsored a separate letter to EPA chief Gina McCarthy and Jo-Ellen Darcy, assistant secretary of the Army Corps, saying that the EPA did not conduct required assessments of the rule’s consequences on small businesses.

They said the rule includes several broadly-defined terms such as “adjacent,” “riparian area” and “tributary” that could expand the overall definition of “waters of the United States” to include many more small bodies of water. These expanded definitions “may result in significant added legal and regulatory costs for small businesses,” the lawmakers said in their letter.

Testimony cited a report disparaging the rule by University of California-Berkley economist David Sunding. The report says EPA used flawed methods to arrive at much lower economic costs of the proposed rule. Sunding also concluded that the EPA’s analysis of the rule is not transparent.

The American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) has launched a “Ditch the Rule” campaign opposing EPA’s proposal, circulated Sunding’s report, which was prepared with the support of the Waters Advocacy Council, a group that represents agriculture, forestry, mining, real estate, construction, manufacturing and energy communities.

As part of the “Ditch the Rule” campaign, the Missouri Farm Bureau produced a parody video that has been extremely popular on Twitter and other social media sites. In the video, Missouri farmers Andy and Kacey Clay, along with their children, point out how a dry ditch on their farm could be impacted by the proposed rule. The video is posted here: http://www.agri-pulse.com/Video-Ditch-the-Rule-EPA.asp

The comment deadline is in mid July. We need EVERYONE in New Mexico to comment. To that end, please watch the New Mexico Cattle Growers’ Association (NMCGA) website www.nmagriculture.org, our Facebook pages, your mail and your email to see help.

You may need to get out more

If you think all of this is far-fetched, I can tell you what IS far-fetched.

On one NMCGA trip this spring there was some extra time in an airport so I was wandering around through the shops. Everyone should take some time to do this.

In one store I found a “sandbox.” It was not much bigger that a 9x12x3 box. As I read the box, I found that it truly was a sandbox. It was complete with sand, a little box and some cups to dig in the sand with. How can we be so removed from the land?