Monday, October 01, 2012
Steve Wilmeth chaired a panel at the Insight USA meeting in Albq. this Saturday. Below are his introductory comments followed by the presentations of those who provided a copy for publication.
The Tyranny we face
By Stephen L. Wilmeth
Tyranny is defined in West’s Legal Dictionary as “Autocratic or despotic government”. In our neck of federal dominion, the southwestern quadrant of New Mexico, that definition rules our lives.
Let’s pick this apart. Autocratic is defined as arbitrary, strict, or absolute. Despotic is tyrannical or oppressive. I’ll submit there is no other way to define the circumstances we face.
In the brief time we have, you will hear from New Mexicans who are attached to the land in one way or another. Each is tied economically to the productivity of the land, and each possesses an unfulfilled promise to be at the table when the federal government comes riding into town disrupting local customs and cultures.
Laura Schneberger is the president of Gila Livestock Growers Association. She and her husband ranch in the Gila National Forest. Together, they represent the truly endangered American … federal land ranchers of the Gila where cattle numbers measured as animal units months have plunged 87% since Aldo Leopold commandeered the concept of “Wilderness” from my predecessors, the Shelley family of the Gila, in 1924.
The campaign Mrs. Schneberger will discuss is the reintroduction of the Mexican wolf to her front yard, her back pasture, and the lives of every child living in that field of battle. She will remind the audience that in work done by the Dr. Julia Martin Luce and presented to Congress 50% of the children interviewed in the study show symptoms of post traumatic stress disorder. Can you only imagine the outrage the world would hear if a fraction of that number of children in Harlem or Boulder or Anywhere, USA was similarly clinically diagnosed from any program sanctioned and capitalized by tax payer money?
Judy Keeler is from Luna and Hidalgo Counties. She and her husband live and ranch in the Bootheel one of the most beautiful … and dangerous places on earth. Not too far from their fence line, Rob Krentz was killed. You will all remember Rancher Rob Krentz who was offering aid to what he thought was an illegal in trouble. Rob died out in his pasture where he was shot and left for dead by an unknown illegal intruder.
Mrs. Keeler is a world authority on the bigger picture behind the expanding environmental juggernaut … the Rewilding Project. She knows it is a plan engineered by folks who have had powerful influences within our government. They intend to reduce civilization to islands within grand transcontinental wildlife corridors … or completely. Mrs. Keeler also knows a chapter of this grand plan is explicit in the recent announcement by USFWS to establish an 838,232 acre first phase of a jaguar introduction scheme. This chapter is about to unfold right in front of us.
Horsemen have elected to make their living shoeing or training horses. Mike Skidmore determined long ago his path in the West was to manage the pasture rotation of actual horsemen in God’s domain. He is a cowboy pastor with respect beyond his flock in Sierra County. Pastor Skidmore knows as much about forest travel management rules as he does about John: 3:16. He quotes statute and scripture and he can do it with economy of words and common sense and that everybody understands.
He created the model for the defense of customs and culture in rallying citizens being put in jeopardy by Forest Service actions. In his rally in 2011 objecting to agency actions of closing historic roads, over 600 people showed up to support his effort. The same tactic was used by New Mexico Congressman Steve Pearce in defending eastern New Mexicans against the unwarranted listing of the dunes sagebrush lizard which threatened to decimate oil production in the Permian Basin. Thousands thronged to that effort and they prevailed.
Alex Thal is another Gila National Forest rancher. He is also a retired college professor who found himself in a liberal world with little to no common belief system in the ranks of his colleagues at Western New Mexico University. That university, from a historical perspective, will emerge as one of the most influential facilitators of environmental doctrine in the West. It remains an institution that has no market feedback to its mission and its doctrine, hence, its world of uncontested theory has become its world of controvertible standards.
When I was told his economic analysis done regarding the adverse economic impact to ranching in the Gila by the Forest Service was a product of that university, I was incredulous. There was simply no university history of such work done in the manner and in such stark conclusions of the Thal research. When I was informed that indeed it was true, but Dr. Thal had subsequently been subjected to attempts of professorship termination it was not surprising.
Howard Hutchinson began life far from the sunsets of western ranches. In fact, his early days were immersed in the ‘other side’. Along the way, he met and became influenced by another generation of Westerners who viewed their existence as being allowed and sanctioned by our Constitution. The message from that stance was not just for those folks, but to all Americans. It was a fundamental reality that spelled either success or doom for our country.
Mr. Hutchinson emerged as being one of the most knowledgeable advocates of fundamental rights in the West. He was a founding member and heads the Coalition of AZ-NM Counties. The group is dedicated to the adherence of constitutional principles and the battle against the federal onslaught that threatens our existence.
Howard has long been and remains a frequent witness to congressional committees. His understanding and insight into the detail of federal legislation affecting the West is a vital resource. He has earned the right to wear a rancher’s hat!
Walt Anderson looks and acts like the New Mexico pioneer his family, in fact, is. Each morning, he sees the same features his grandfather saw in 1929 when the Andersons settled on the banks of the Gila River in Grant County.
In 2011, the Andersons learned their ranch was going to be impacted by the expansion of an Area of Critical Environmental Concern (ACEC). Some 2250 acres of their private land along with part of their state and federal lease land was going to be swept into the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) expansion.
Mr. Anderson knew his status as an individual may be minimized, but he also knew local government has defined rights within federal law. Walt is a board member of the Hidalgo Soil and Water Conservation District, an elected body of local government. That body mobilized, won the current discussion with facts, and illustrated to the world local government can prevail in unexpected matters of federal land decisions and actions if the body is diligent and focused.
Darr Shannon is a ranching steward from Hidalgo County. She was raised on a ranch with such water scarcity her father insisted on only weekly baths. Darr remembers how she and her sister would sneak into the kitchen late at night and wash their hair during their high school days. Peer pressure outweighed the ongoing battle to pump enough water on the ranch.
Mrs. Shannon left home soon after high school thinking there was much more to life than the ranch. She lived and worked for years in places like Washington, D.C. It was along the way she learned the quality of life on the ranch far outweighed the heartaches. Today, Darr and her husband are the owners of that same multigenerational family ranch. She has a fuel service business and she is a member of her County Commission. That commission is immensely dedicated to the preservation of local governance. It has led an effort to unite constitutional minded county governing bodies and they have formed the Southwestern County Commission Alliance.
Joe Delk’s family arrived in Grant County, New Mexico in 1878. One week ago, he buried his mother, Gertrude Twiss Delk, on their family ranch under the Kneeling Nun at Santa Rita. Mrs. Delk, 87 at the time of death, had recently and matter-of-factly killed a rattlesnake just off her porch the same way she would have done it 65 years ago.
Mr. Delk has become one of the new era constitutionalists of the West. His vision of recognizing conservation districts as the remaining outpost for direct contact with government to the land may not be unique, but it is timely, counter current, and inspirational.
Joe’s foundational commitment to the preservation of the offices of county sheriffs and the boards of natural resource districts are looked upon by many as the remaining, primary strengths available to the rural, resource dependent West. No longer can all county commissions be relied upon to recognize and fulfill the basic leadership roles for those people who have duties, responsibilities and investments on these lands.
The Common theme
The West is the continued scene of the grandest expropriation of constitutional promise in the history of the United States. There is no way to argue the correctness of the inequality of federal dominion of land ownership that exists here. Government owns over 60% of the land west of the 100th Meridian (excluding Hawaii) as compared to less than 10% of those lands east of that demarcation. Pick any measure of logic and attempt to defend the egregious prejudice explicit in the outcome.
The cattle industry is migrating eastward to private lands. Shattered local communities lie in the wake. The timber business is migrating eastward to private lands. Shattered local communities lie in the wake. The oil business is migrating to private lands, period.
Farm land attrition in the absence of residential growth alternatives has been accelerated in the western sea of federal dominion. Infrastructure has become highest cost because of the limitation of growth into safer and less cost alternatives of federal holdings surrounding existing municipalities. Long term extractive industry strategies are largely stagnant. Personal property tax bases are struggling.
Just to reach par with average national student expenditures, the State of Utah believes its shortfall in educational funding is now over $2 billion annually. The harvest of those funds is predicated on tax sourcing that is strangled as a direct result of the federal dominion of ownership.
These issues and the people on this panel are the victims of the fourth Legion … the outgrowth of the land dominion debacle … the new fourth pillar of government ... the environmental cartels.
That phenomenon is a direct result of the fact that states don’t have vested representation in Congress. The 17th Amendment to the Constitution altered the appointment of senatorial representation from the authority of the state legislatures to the vote of the people. The people already had their vested representation, and, moral conscience, in the form of the House of Representatives. Every two years those folks have to dance for reelection and that factor, as unappealing as it may be to those in Congress, actually reinforces their accountability to their electorate.
In the Constitutional debate, the smaller states were scared to death of the power accrued to the big states if a majority vote across the board determined debate outcome. What they feared is exactly what western states face today. The compromise was to establish a branch of government that offered equality amongst the states in at least one branch. The Senate was the mechanism to assure states rights.
The Constitution set forth the result of the compromise through legislature appointed representation prior to 1913. With no direct state control since that time, the Senate has become, at best, an indirect protector of such rights. Senators are not vested in the welfare of the states they represent. Their allegiance has long been redirected to the source of their reelection financing.
The best example is New Mexico Senator Jeff Bingaman. There is no way Senator Bingaman would be espousing the retirement of future productive returns of half of all federal land in my county if he had to run the gauntlet of state of New Mexico legislator approval … that is if the Constitutional promise of conveyance of lands to private and state control had been followed like it was east of the 100th Meridian.
If the state enjoyed the full benefits of private property tax harvests, Jeff Bingaman would have been laughed off the dais when he stood in front of the combined legislature and told them, in exchange for his reappointment, he was going to eliminate future earning streams off 400,000 acres of land he intends to retire in Dona Ana County for his wilderness legacy!
The reality is New Mexico, like every other state, must compete for senatorial representation for the purposes of protecting states rights. The state must play second fiddle to a host of environmental special interests who have found their champion in Senator Bingaman and his like minded colleagues.
This condition has nearly brought the resource dependent West to its knees. The new land rush, the wresting of federal lands in the West to the environmental growth industries, is the result.
If you don’t think this is a lucrative business, think again. An IRS search for ‘conservancy’ organizations totaled a net worth of $11.6 billion in fiscal year 2010. The big kid on the block and in New Mexico, The Nature Conservancy, had listed assets of $5.6 billion or more than two and a half times the gross annual production of all New Mexico agricultural products.
The progressive interpretation of the results is that more concern for mother earth begets more lands being removed from human productive endeavors. The trend spirals further out of control. More controls mean more individual battles just like those discussed by this panel today. Change the names but the outcome is always the same. There are fewer and fewer opportunities of self reliance. Initiative is suppressed. Fewer quality opportunities exist to keep our children home, and the diabolical premise of protection of mother earth becomes more entrenched.
Sovereignty is shredded, and … the Constitution exists in name only.
Stephen L. Wilmeth is a rancher from southern New Mexico. “Look at these people … they are the true endangered species of our landscape.”