To The Point

Man’s Inhumanity To Man . . .

It never ceases to amaze the way that people think they can say or write to one another. The examples were many during this past Legislature. At one point Senate Majority Floor Leader Michael Sanchez opened a Floor Session pointing out that …

no matter what side of an issue an individual falls on, everyone involved is a person and that even via email or phone message, words cut deep. And, if they are written, they don’t ever go away.

With all due respect to attorneys, including Senator Sanchez, our own Karen Budd-Falen and I am sure many, many others, I have spent way too much time in the company of lawyers in the past several months. It seems that virtually anything can be said in the pursuit of victory. The things that are simply not true are the least of the transgressions.

The belligerence and attacking nature is something you have to see to believe.

A prime example of what I am talking about lies in the record of the Water Quality Control Commission’s (WQCC) hearing on the recent designation of hundreds of miles of perennial streams, lakes and wetlands as Outstanding National Resource Waters (ONRWs). The two weeks of hearings produced literally thousands of pages of transcripts, some of it pretty boring, but there are passages that most civil people won’t even believe.

This and other such processes are purported to be “public” hearings so that members of the public can contribute and represent themselves and their concerns as the government considers actions that might impact them. The transcripts tell a very different story. The way the public was treated during the ONRW would certainly make most people think twice about attempting to participate ever again. It is worth noting that these transgressions took place in the presence of a hearing officer who didn’t find the need to intercede on the part of individual citizens. Apparently accusing landowners and small business owners of perjury is the normal course of business in these circles.

I have threatened to take the transcripts to the next hospitality suite and assign parts for a reenactment. I think that extra fortification will be necessary for me to relive the grueling two weeks.

By Who’s Definition?

Then there is the use of the term “victory.” At a recent meeting on an issue that initially involved thousands of miles in New Mexico, New Mexico Cattle Growers’ Association (NMCGA) leadership was repeatedly asked why they just declare “victory” and go home when the impact was reduced to merely hundreds of miles .

As President Bert Ancell pointed out after this meeting, the world would be a far different place if that was the attitude of our forefathers. Jim Bowie and Davie Crockett would have survived The Alamo had William Travis just declared victory and gone home after the first battle.

But beyond that, it never ceases to amaze and frustrate me that people who come to drive the range livestock industry from the land with nothing to offer in return find it unreasonable for us to fight back and hold our ground. While there is a significant difference between thousands of miles and hundreds of miles, there is still great harm to families and the land when regulatory burdens become so great that businesses, then communities go under. That harm is not just limited to the locals who are actually hurt.

It is a broken record, but food does not come from the grocery store alone. Imported foods cannot match the safety of food produced in our own country. National security IS at stake as the country becomes more reliant on foreign products. A drive by any gas station in America is a quick barometer on what happens to the economy when we cannot produce for ourselves.

These are all things that bureaucrats and politicians need to think about the next time they want to know why we didn’t declare victory and go home when it is only 30 or 40 businesses and families are going to be driven from their land and homes by government actions.

Shame on you Mr. President

I approach this subject with great caution. According to the popular media, when a pre-teen posted that it was likely that there would be some retribution for the taking of Osama Bin Laden, he was visited at his school by the Secret Service. As a disclaimer, this is not – nor is it intended to be – a threat against anyone. It is merely my opinion and observation about an issue that is near and dear to me, my family, my employers and the nation.

It is also worth noting that there is respect that is due and must be accorded the President of the United States. That does not mean that his every action is above reproach.

Things were bad enough when the Secretary of Homeland Security made repeated trips to El Paso to tell the nation how safe the international border with Mexico is. If only her statements would make it so. We know that friends and family remain in harm’s way as the border remains as porous as ever. The government reports may not reflect this, but are we going to believe a government report or our lying eyes?

It was clearly insult added to injury when the President arrived in El Paso recently to tell the world that the border issue is nothing more than a partisan issue with Republicans trying to grab media attention. Not only was this a slap in the face to Americans who have lost family members to the border wars, it was an insult to a valued member of his own party.

Wasn’t it just a few months ago that the President flew across the country to the bedside of critically wounded Congresswoman Gabriella Giffords? Who was one of the biggest champions of the need for border protection? Admittedly it took a senseless murder for Representative Giffords to focus on what was and is really happening in her own district. But once the realization came, she was tireless in her fight for the people of Cochise County and all along the Mexican border. She put the citizens on the ground in touch with those at the highest level in the government, including Secretary Janet Napolitano.

I have beat the Napolitano drum all too often before. As the former governor of Arizona, there are few who know better just how dangerous our border is. There is enough shame to go around.

Looks Like They Are Listening . . . Are They Hearing?

Congressman Steve Pearce has spent the last few months making the American public aware of the absurdity of the federal Endangered Species Act (ESA) with the sand dune lizard as the latest example. This lizard, a subspecies that can only be identified by catching it and looking at the scales under its legs, has habitat that by definition is shifting – sand dunes. The issue has become a hot item on Fox News and other national media outlets and the Texas House of Representatives have passed a resolution opposing the listing.

Congressman Pearce has single-handedly changed the debate on the ESA, forcing the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (FWS) as well as radical environmental groups to debate the issue of jobs. Of course they are claiming the sand dune lizard won’t cost any jobs. That claim has been made about many species and has been proven to be wrong repeatedly.

While there is a long, long way to go to see real change, the Obama Administration is at least paying lip service to the problems with the ESA. In late May the departments of Commerce and Interior announced that the FWS and NOAA Fisheries Service “launched a joint effort to identify and implement administrative changes to the Endangered Species Act aimed at accelerating recovery of imperiled species, enhancing on-the-ground conservation delivery, and better engaging the resources and expertise of partners to meet the goals of the ESA.”

While those words are not necessarily music to my ears, the release was a bit more pointed in places. “This review and update of regulations, policies, and guidance is consistent with President Obama’s Executive Order 13563, Improving Regulation and Regulatory Review and is outlined in the Department of Interior’s Preliminary Plan for Retrospective Regulatory Review.”

I tend to agree with House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Doc Hastings (WA-04) who said, “The Obama Administration is admitting that the ESA is failing to truly recover endangered species while it frequently hamstrings jobs and economic prosperity . . . However, the Obama Administration appears to purposefully be launching a substantial, unilateral rewrite of regulations. Instead of choosing to exercise bureaucratic fiat, the Obama Administration should sit down and work with impacted communities and their elected representatives in Congress to enact improvements to the law that will actually bring species to recovery, end the debilitating costly lawsuits, and utilize strong science to guide decisions in order to protect jobs and the livelihoods of rural Americans.”

Good Cop / Bad Cop?

At the same time a Washington, D.C. Federal District Judge has stayed a settlement agreement between the WildEarth Guardians (WEG) and the FWS regarding the listing of hundreds of species – because of protests from the Center for Biological Diversity (CBD).

According to a CBD press release, the WEG “reached a settlement with the agency in early May to potentially move 839 imperiled species toward federal protection, including final protection decisions for 251 species that have been stuck on the “candidate” list, many for decades; but the CBD objected that the agreement was too weak, too vague and ultimately unenforceable. They also objected to the fact that 87 percent of Endangered Species Act petitions affected by the agreement were petitioned or litigated by the Center and thus needed to be resolved with the Center’s approval.”

The New York Times reported the CBD is “arguing that it was unenforceable and left out important species of animals and plants. The Obama administration will resume talks with environmental groups, the CBD says.”

Meanwhile back in the halls of Congress . . .

While all of these dramas play out, legislation is being dropped on an almost daily basis in Congress that will impact natural resource use in the national and land use in New Mexico. Senators Jeff Bingaman and Tom Udall have reintroduced legislation that would turn the Valles Caldera National Preserve over to the U.S. Park Service and create a new Wilderness Area in Doña Ana County.

Livestock producers have long been on record opposing both of these measures. In the case of the Valles Caldera, the enabling legislation has several years before it runs out. According to that statute, in the event that the operation cannot survive, the land is to be turned over to the U.S. Forest Service (USFS). It is a matter of record that I am not generally a fan of the USFS. However, if the Valles is not permitted to operate as envisioned by the statute, it would be better off in the hands of the USFS, where there is at least a multiple use mandate.

While the current legislation does say that grazing “may” occur, there is no certainty that multiple use will be continued. One can also question how the Park Service, with its back-log of maintenance issues and budget constraints, can take on yet another piece of property it cannot afford to manage.

On the other side of the coin, in the U.S. House of Representatives there has been a host of bills introduced that would provide greater security to the grazing industry; would reform the Equal Access to Justice Act to stop the money train to environmental groups; put border security as a priority in federal land management along international borders; and release Wilderness Study Areas and roadless areas. There are probably many more and we will continue to monitor them.

And here at home . . .

The Office of the State Engineer has proposed new and alarming regulations regarding domestic wells and the Renewable Energy Transmission Authority has proposed its own regulations regarding eminent domain. Please watch the website for comments and actions that need to be taken.

See you at Mid Year for information on these topics and many, many more!