Issues of concern to people who live in the west: property rights, water rights, endangered species, livestock grazing, energy production, wilderness and western agriculture. Plus a few items on western history, western literature and the sport of rodeo... Frank DuBois served as the NM Secretary of Agriculture from 1988 to 2003. DuBois is a former legislative assistant to a U.S. Senator, a Deputy Assistant Secretary of Interior, and is the founder of the DuBois Rodeo Scholarship.
Monday, December 31, 2012
State Management of Federal Lands
The State of New
The state of the United States Forest Service
By Stephen L. Wilmeth
Lucas, Representative from the State of Oklahoma
and Chair of the House Agriculture Committee, announced on Friday, December 21, 2012 the
subcommittee chairs from his committee for the 113th Congress.Five names were presented by Representative
Lucas with the following statement:
“I am pleased to announce the Committee’s
leadership team for the next Congress. Our Subcommittee Chairmen have
demonstrated a commitment to ensuring the success of American agriculture and
rural economies. I look forward to working with them as we address the
important issues our agricultural producers and rural constituents face.”
Lucas is most likely a reasonable fellow or his fellow Okies wouldn’t have
reelected him November 6. His words must be true, but, to many Westerners,
words just don’t seem to have the same tone and timbre as they should. For
example, to those folks who live in the states of the West where the federal
government controls over 50% of the land mass the suggestion of successful
rural economies is simply confounding.
specifically, the announcement of the ‘Subcommittee’ chairs shouldn’t create
nearly as much interest as the complexity and expanse of jurisdiction assigned
to those leaders. For starters every one of those names comes from states without
federal ownership dominion (Iowa,
Texas, Pennsylvania, Georgia, and Arkansas). A Westerner
might have a much different perspective and just may not agree that a federal
committee should be micromanaging any industry in the manner our government is
of control is staggering. The list includes authority over Department
Operations, Oversight, and Nutrition Jurisdiction; Agency oversight, review and
analysis, special investigations, food stamps, nutrition and consumer programs;
General Farm Commodities and Risk Management Jurisdiction; Program and markets
related to cotton, cottonseed, wheat, feed grains, soybeans, oilseeds, rice dry
beans, peas, lentils, the Commodity Credit Corporation, risk management,
including crop insurance, commodity exchanges, and specialty crops;
Conservation, Energy, and Forestry Jurisdiction; Soil, water and resource
conservation, small watershed program, energy and biobased energy production,
rural electrification, forestry in general and forest reserves other than those
created from the public domain; Horticulture, Research, Biotechnology, and
Foreign Agriculture Jurisdiction; Fruits and vegetables, honey and bees,
marketing and promotion orders, plant pesticides, quarantine, adulteration of
seeds and insect pests, and organic agriculture, research, education and
extension, biotechnology and foreign agriculture assistance, and trade
promotion programs, generally; Livestock, Rural Development , and Credit
Jurisdiction; Livestock, dairy, poultry, meat, seafood and seafood products,
inspection, marketing, and promotion of such commodities, aquaculture, animal
welfare and grazing, rural development, farm security and family matters, and …
WHEW! … agricultural credit.
believers of the 9th and 10th Amendments have reason for
The State of New Mexico
New Mexico is a sizeable
chunk of real estate. It covers 77,819,520 acres of creation that rancher Don
Thompson reverently reminds his land steward colleagues, “There is no land on
earth that gives more, and … expects less than New Mexico.”
The state has strong rural ties.
$.36 of every dollar now extracted and placed in the state’s budget comes from
the United States Treasury. That is a troubling reality. The magnitude of such
federal reliance should make every New Mexican wince especially with the
pending financial crisis that looms for this nation in 2013.
Despite those woes, New Mexico still appears
to be on track to maintain a balanced budget. Historically, the state has been
a model of fiscal conservatism with enviable budget surpluses. The big revenue
production has come variously, but oil and gas have fueled the state’s coffers.
state’s budget for 2013 is $5.6 billion. If the entire budget was applied to
‘risk, management, and return to land’, the outlay would represent $71.96 per
acre, but, of course, there is much more in the budget than managing the
state’s land, in general, or state trust land, in particular.
management of state trust land, though, does provide the basis of a broadening
theme. The New Mexico State Land Office (SLO) oversees nine million acres of
state trust surface land and some 13 million acres of subsurface rights. Based
on 2012 numbers, the SLO is on track to distribute to $657.7 million to a list
of beneficiaries of which education is the major recipient.
represents an impressive net return to the state of $4,355,629 per SLO
employee. Stated another way, the SLO trust land return per acre to New Mexico is about
$29.89 per acre.
The state of the United States Forest
interesting comparison is to seek a federal agency that has a similar budget to
the State of New Mexico
and then compare the relative wealth contribution to the nation. Implicit in
the comparison is the suggestion that any single agency that has the financial
clout of a sovereign state of the United States must contribute substantively
to the wellbeing of the nation. The comparison is found in one of Representative
Lucas’ oversight responsibilities, the United State Forest Service (Forest
mirrors the State of New Mexico’s
$5.6 billion budget with a $5.5 billion counterpart.
revenues stemming from Forest Service timber sales, grazing fees, and mineral
extraction for 2013 are expected to be $108,790,000. If ‘land management’,
recreation, and ‘other’ are added to that total, revenue harvest from permits,
leases, and gate receipts is expected to net $421,573,000. That contribution to
the agency still equates to a $28.49 loss for every managed acre. It also
equates to a whopping $160,584 net loss per employee!
There is extensive
narrative in the agency’s budget presentation regarding ‘theme’. The pillars of
that theme are restoration, communities, and fire. Notwithstanding those words,
the budget sets forth something much different.
What can be
gleaned from study is a broad generalization that the agency has become a behemoth
that manages three pillars of modern purpose. The first and only activity that
reflects historical effort is fighting fire. The modern day fire, however, is
The second pillar is litigation and
legal settlement dispensation. To actually determine how much money the agency
sinks into this black hole is impossible to discern by merely reviewing the
budget. Anecdotal suggestions by former officials claim it runs between 25 and
30% of the budget.
The third pillar is what must be
categorized as concentrated environmental assignments. Enhancement of domestic
forest productivity is nonexistent. Expenditures include money and efforts
spent internationally guiding forest management practices of third world
countries. Programs also include and expand United Nation conceptualized projects
of sustainability. Part of that is acquisition of more federal holdings.
In 2013, the agency has budgeted no
less than $59.1 million for acquiring land. Those acquisitions are represented
to be vital for critical habitat and expansion of theme issues. Without
introducing diseconomies of scale, the nation has every reason to believe for
every acre added to the Forest Service’s portfolio another $28.49 annual
operational loss will result. Recent year budgets verify the trend and there is
no substantive conceptual strategy that counters it.
New Mexico’s SLO is run by the state
constitutional mandate for securing revenues for educational funding. The Land
Commissioner position is an elected position. Every candidate who runs for the
position represents himself as the best friend education can have, and the
results cannot be denied. The SLO of the State of New Mexico annually collects a quarter of a
billion dollars more from state trust land activities than combined efforts of
the Forest Service. That is done on 11% of a comparative land mass.
Using the same results and duplicating
the metrics, the SLO should contract to the United States to assume Forest
Service management. The difference would be stark. It would take an additional 1,325
state employees (which would reduce the federal counterparts by 32,925). Rather
than a $5.5 billion black hole, the U.S. Treasury would receive $5.769 billion
or a minimum swing of $11.26 billion.
Skeptical are you?
The State of Arizona did better. In a SLO that manages
trust lands for a reported $.17 per acre, that agency projects a return to its
state of $30.74 per managed acre in 2012.
If management of the federal lands
was returned to the states, the hysterical outcry would be the health of the
environment, but, citizenry who deal with private, state and federal lands know
that productive land is healthy land. New
Mexico and Arizona
state trust lands are vital to Customs and Culture and they lag only private
lands in total investment. State and private lands are healthy or the expanding
revenue harvests wouldn’t occur.
The question is how unhealthy are
federal lands? Their budget suggests monumental problems.
L. Wilmeth is a rancher from southern New
Mexico. “The West has lost multiple generations of
investments and enterprise improvements because of constraints imposed by federal
land management. Representative Lucas could do the nation a great service if he
led an effort to return management decisions to local and state controls.”
THE WESTERNER sez:
Wilmeth raises an interesting issue - who has jurisdiction over the Forest Service.
Wilmeth writes about Frank Lucas and the House Ag Committee. An excerpt from their jurisdiction as published by House Rule:
Forestry in general, and forest reserves other than those
created from the public domain.
Matters relating to the development, use, and administration
of the National Forests, including, but not limited to, development of a sound
program for general public use of the National Forests consistent with
watershed protection and sustained-yield timber management, study of the forest
fire prevention and control policies and activities of the Forest Service and
their relation to coordinated activities of other Federal, State, and private
agencies; Forest Service land exchanges; and wilderness and similar use
designations applied to National Forest land.
Well, what about the House Natural Resources Committee? Going to that committee's jurisdiction page we find:
Forest reserves and national parks
created from the public domain.
·Mineral land laws
and claims and entries thereunder.
·Mineral resources of
conservation on public lands and conservation of the radium supply in the
prehistoric ruins and objects of interest on the public domain.
generally, including entry, easements, and grazing thereon.
Wilmeth does an excellent job writing about the Forest Service budget. Who has jurisdiction over their budget?
The House Appropriations Committee, and more specifically the Subcommittee on Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies.
Go to their jurisdiction page and you will find that one of the "related agencies" is, you guessed it, the Forest Service.
So again I ask, who has jurisdiction over the Forest Service? I'm sure the D.C. Deep Thinkers will reply, "it's shared".