Friday, January 04, 2013

Feds Block New Mexico Man From Clearing Debris From Dry Stream Bed


    The federal government is at it again: fighting to prevent citizens from improving their own property under the alleged authority of the Clean Water Act of 1972.
    The latest target of tyranny is Peter and Francoise Smith, a retired couple from Lone Butte, New Mexico.
     Here’s the on ramp to the story as provided by the Santa Fe New Mexican:

Peter Smith said the 20 acres the couple bought in 2005 is near old ranch property in Lone Butte. An arroyo crosses about 1,000 feet of the property. Smith said he cleaned up glass bottles, beer cans and other trash from the arroyo, and periodically, he mowed back non-native, fast-growing salt cedar trees.
Smith said deep, eroded ruts in the arroyo threatened to flip over his tractor when he tried to mow. “So I went in and smoothed the ruts over,” he said.

    Gallina Arroyo is the name of the little stream that is giving the Smiths so much trouble.
    Imagine being the sort of person who takes pride in your property, keeping it clean, being a good steward of the land only to have agents of the federal government come in and accuse you of violating federal law and threatening to fine you for your efforts.
    “People dumped garbage down there, and there was a beetle infestation that took out a lot of the piƱon,” Peter Smith said, as quoted by the Albuquerque Journal. He added that the some 600 dead trees he was removing were an undeniable fire hazard.
    “The salt cedar was getting to the point it was so thick you couldn’t walk through it. So I cleaned up as much as I could and tried to maintain it with a tractor and a Bush Hog,” Smith told the Albuquerque Journal.
     Now, imagine that the “law” the feds accuse you of breaking was designed to protect the “waters of the United States” and the dry stream bed you are clearing rarely has water flow through it at all.
    Irrelevant, says the Army Corps of Engineers. According to the federal and state inspectors, the Gallina Arroyo has a “significant nexus” with the Rio Grande River. In case you’re wondering, the Rio Grande River is about 25 miles from where the mostly dry creek runs through the Smith’s property.
    “Basically, it discharges, eventually, into the Rio Grande,” said William Oberle, project manager with the Corps’ Albuquerque District regulatory division, as quoted in the Albuquerque Journal. “It’s a tributary, to make it simple.”
    According to documents filed in the lawsuit, the Gallina Arroyo may be mostly dry and far removed from any significant waterway, but when water does flow through it, that water occasionally empties into other arroyos, that in turn empty into bigger arroyos that eventually empty into the Rio Grande.
    Lest anyone think Peter and Francoise are muckrakers and are out to “git the gubmint," comments made by Mr. Smith to the Santa Fe New Mexican make it clear that he respects the law. “The main point is that it is not the waters of the United States,” Smith said. “It would be different if it was a flowing river going through there, but the thing is dry.”

Late cash saves Noble Basin

A big donation late in the game has completed the purchase of natural gas leases in the Noble Basin and prevented development there. Joe Ricketts, a Sublette County rancher and the founder of TD Ameritrade, stepped in at the 11th hour with money to complete the buyout of 58,000 acres of gas leases in the basin. The area had been targeted for development by Plains Production and Exploration, known as PXP. The Trust for Public Land, which organized the $8.75 million deal, had been about $750,000 short of the purchase price all the way up to Monday, the day before the money was due. The announcement came from Chris Deming, Wyoming director of the Trust for Public Land. “We have closed with PXP,” Deming said Wednesday. “Joe Ricketts provided the closing gift, and we were able to get the deal done the day before closing.” The trust had no assurance that the last funding would come through until the last day, Deming said. Ricketts owns the Lodge at Jackson Fork Ranch, a fly-fishing retreat near the basin that forms the headwaters of the Hoback River. Having previously given $1 million to the trust, he was the largest publicly identified donor — until Wednesday. The effort’s single largest donor, who previously had remained anonymous, was Hansjorg Wyss. The Swiss billionaire and Wilson resident gave $4.25 million through his foundation in the early phases of the buyout effort...more

Thursday, January 03, 2013

BLM’s decision on Nevada-Utah water pipeline called ‘pure folly

Las Vegas’ plan to tap billions of gallons of groundwater lurched closer to reality this week after the Bureau of Land Management granted a right of way for a 263-mile pipeline connecting the fast-growing gambling destination with rural basins to the north near the Utah state line. But excluded from this decision, which environmentalists and local ranchers will likely challenge in court, was the contentious matter of whether the Southern Nevada Water Authority (SNWA) will tap water from under the Snake Valley, the basin straddling the state line west of Delta. This is because Las Vegas has yet to secure rights to this groundwater, which remains in dispute between Utah and Nevada.  A proposed interstate agreement for dividing Snake Valley water awaits the signature of Utah Gov. Gary Herbert. According to a spokesman on Friday, the governor and his advisers intend to review BLM’s move before deciding whether to sign off on the agreement, which has been favorably vetted by a panel of water-law experts. Under this proposal, Nevada would be able to pull up to 36,000 acre-feet annually from Snake Valley for diversion to the Las Vegas metropolitan area, which is seeking water sources to supplement its reliance on the over-allocated Colorado River.  The new BLM decision focuses on proposed infrastructure that will move 84,000 acre-feet of groundwater from Cave, Dry Lake, Delamar and Spring valleys, and another 41,000 acre-feet secured through agreements with ranchers and Lincoln County. (An acre-foot, equal to 326,000 gallons, can meet the annual needs of up to four households.)  SNWA General Manager Patricia Mulroy called the new BLM decision a "huge milestone" for southern Nevada, while environmentalists called it "pure folly."...more

Montana Judge Allows Wolf Season to Resume Near Yellowstone

Wolf hunting and trapping can resume near Yellowstone National Park after a Montana judge on Wednesday blocked the state from shutting down the practice over concerns that too many animals used in research were being killed. The restraining order from Judge Nels Swandal allows hunting and trapping to resume in areas east and west of the town of Gardiner in Park County. State officials closed the gray wolf season in those areas on Dec. 10. That came after several wolves collared for scientific research were killed, drawing complaints from wildlife advocates. The move prompted a lawsuit from sporting groups and a state lawmaker from Park County, Rep. Alan Redfield, who said the public was not given enough chance to weigh in on the closures. In his order, Swandal sided with the plaintiffs. He said the lack of public notice appeared to violate the Montana Constitution and threatened to deprive the public of the legal right to harvest wolves. He ordered the state "to immediately reinstitute and allow hunting and trapping of wolves in all areas of Park County."...more

Group will sue feds over mexican gray wolf trapping

An environmental group has notified federal authorities that it will sue to block them from trapping wolves that wander into Arizona and New Mexico from Mexico or the northern Rocky Mountains. On Wednesday, the Center for Biological Diversity announced its intent to sue the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service over a 2011 rule it adopted allowing agents to trap and relocate wolves wandering north of Interstate 40 or south of Interstate 10. Those areas are outside the agency’s Mexican gray wolf recovery zone — a 4.4million-acre swath centered in Arizona’s Apache National Forest and New Mexico’s Gila National Forest, where reintroduced wolves are considered experimental under the Endangered Species Act. Outside the recovery zone, wolves enjoy fuller protection as an endangered species. The group asserts that this means they should be allowed to roam “perfectly good wolf habitat” regardless of where they originated. “Despite that full protection, the Fish and Wildlife Service surreptitiously granted itself a permit to remove wolves from those areas,” said Michael Robinson, conservation advocate for the Center for Biological Diversity. The group is challenging the rule in part because it was made without public involvement.  In recent years, it has grown more likely that wolves could come into the states from the booming population in Wyoming or from Mexico’s reintroduction efforts near the border. Wolf advocates believe that the rules Fish and Wildlife established before reintroducing wolves into the Blue Range that straddles the Arizona/New Mexico line impeded recovery, compared with the similar effort in the northern Rockies...more

4 Mexican gray wolves found dead in 2012

Officials confirm that three of the four wolves found dead in 2012 were illegally shot. In the most recent case, the carcass of a female member of Arizona's Hawks Nest pack was found in December. The cause of death is under investigation. Eight wolves were found dead in 2011. Three were shot, two were hit by vehicles and three died of natural causes.For the 2012 fiscal year, the coordinator of the wolf recovery program, Sherry Barrett, says officials made 19 payments worth more than $27,500 from a special interdiction fund that was set up to reimburse ranchers who lost livestock to the wolves. Fewer Mexican gray wolves were found dead in the wild in New Mexico and Arizona this past year, and federal officials say efforts aimed at reducing conflicts with livestock seem to be helping.  AP

Gushing about America's Energy Future

The United States is on the path to becoming energy independent in the next few decades. Indeed, the International Energy Agency (IEA) projects that U.S. oil production will exceed Saudi Arabia's production by 2020. It further projects that the United States will be energy independent by 2035, says Desmond Lachman, a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute.
  • Since 2008, U.S. oil production has increased around 25 percent.
  • Because of this, oil imports only make up 42 percent of overall oil consumption, compared to 60 percent in 2005.
  • The United States is expected to increase oil production to over 11 million barrels a day by 2020.
  • As a result, oil imports will decline to 4 million a day.
Natural gas has also been a heavy component of the United States' path to energy independence.
  • The United States has overtaken Russia as the world's largest natural gas producer.
  • In less than a decade, shale gas production has gone from 2 percent of natural gas production to 37 percent.
The trend toward energy independence can be attributed to major advancements in drilling techniques and increases in fuel economy. The catalyst in these developments was not the federal government, but rather the free market. The free market incentivized innovations such as horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing. These new methods have created the ability to tap into vast reserves of oil and natural gas that were not available before. As a result, prices for oil and natural gas have gone down.
There are several economic benefits that the United States enjoys as a result of moving toward energy independence.
  • Around 1.7 million oil and gas jobs have been created in the energy sector.
  • By 2020, we could expect 3 million new jobs.
  • The U.S. trade deficit could be narrowed as natural gas exports increase and oil imports decline.
  • Cutting oil imports by 6 million barrels per day by 2020, as the IEA projects, would save the United States about $180 billion a year.
  • Furthermore, U.S. manufacturing would be revived.
Moreover, the United States would gain significant geopolitical advantages. For example, it would lower the influence of the Middle East. In addition, the United States would be in a position to challenge Russia's influence in Europe by providing some competition in supplying natural gas. NCPA

Source: Desmond Lachman, "Gushing about America's Energy Future," American Enterprise Institute, December 3, 2012.

The Real McCoy Homestead Uncovered - 2013 Marks the 125th Anniversary of the Legendary Hatfield-McCoy New Year's Day Massacre

Randall McCoy
The home of Randall McCoy , the patriarch of the famed McCoy family, and the site of the deadly 1888 New Year's Day showdown between the Hatfields and the McCoys, and 125-year-old artifacts from that feud have been uncovered in rural Kentucky. The discovery was made by the Diggers team shooting an episode of the National Geographic Channel series and confirmed by Kim McBride , co-director of the Kentucky Archaeological Survey (jointly administered by the University of Kentucky Department of Anthropology and the Kentucky Heritage Council). This site, located on private property in rural Hardy, Ky., had long been speculated to be the McCoy's land and the site of the final family feud. Remains of the cabin where the family lived and artifacts from the site where the most famous feud in American history went down, however, had never been uncovered … until now!...more

Wednesday, January 02, 2013

Coyotes Attack Man Walking His Dog

A pack of wild coyotes attacked a man in Washington Friday, leaving him with wounds that forced him to spend most of the evening in the hospital. Q13Fox.comreports that Faron Scarberry was walking his dog Friday outside his home in Kent, Washington when three coyotes emerged from the woods approached him. “They were coming around the bush and I guess they were going after my puggle,” Scarberry said.  “One of them lunged up towards me and I kind of pushed it away with my hand and its front claws scratched my hand and wrist. Then one of the grabbed me by the pant leg and started shaking my leg so I just started kicking and hitting at them to get them off of me and they ran back under the fence.” As a result of the attack, Scarberry spent most of the night in the emergency room, diagnosed with a coyote bites and scratches. In addition, he had to endure 26 painful rabies injections, two shots in his hip, and 24 in his leg...more

According to this article, Scarberry lives next to a school:

A couple of days removed from the accident, Scarberry said he is a little sore. But most of all, he's worried about his neighbors. "The elementary school is right at the back of our property and the kids walk here to and from school," Scarberry said. "I don't want any of the kids to get hurt."

Most NM delegates a fiscal cliff yes

All but one of New Mexico's senators and representatives voted yes on a fiscal cliff deal that delays spending cuts, extends unemployment insurance and blocks most tax hikes on all but the wealthiest New Mexicans. But New Mexico's lone congressional Republican was a "no" vote Tuesday night, along with 150 other fellow GOP House members. “I cannot support this or any plan that doesn’t provide a solution,” said Rep. Steve Pearce (R - NM). “Washington doesn’t have a tax problem, it has a spending problem."...more

Child Dies From Wild Dogs’ Attack

An eight-year-old boy, Tomas Jay Henio, was attacked and killed by nine feral dogs on Wednesday, Dec. 26.A representative from the Ramah Navajo Police Department confirmed the incident. According to the Cibola County Sheriff’s Office, Henio went outside and minutes later his mom went to check on him only find her child face down, unresponsive, with bite marks on his body. The Albuquerque Journal reported this past weekend that Henio was the oldest of four children. All nine dogs were captured on Thursday, Dec. 27, by two county sheriff animal control officers and were delivered to an official at the Grants Animal Care Center at approximately 6 p.m. They were all euthanized that evening, according to Mace. The incident was on Navajo Nation land and the Gallup FBI office, according to Ramah Navajo Police Department Sgt. Delvin Maria, is now handling the case. Feral dogs in Cibola County are a problem. In 2011 Kevin Gleason, Navajo Nation wildlife and animal control manager, reported that there were four-to-five dogs for each of the more than 89,000 households – or as many as 445,000 dogs, most of which roam unchecked, killing livestock and biting people with alarming regularity. There are several parts of Cibola County that belong to the Navajo Nation. One part is the Pinehill area, where the incident took place last week. In Pinehill, stray dogs roam the sides of highways, store parking lots and just about anywhere they find food. “They [feral dogs] kill everything,” Gleason was reported saying by the Associated Press in a Colorado newspaper. “Cats, dogs, cattle, sheep, horses… We just had a case where a man lost 37 sheep to a pack of dogs.” Officers responded to more than 25 bite cases a month, said Gleason. And, 25 livestock damage cases a month. Feral dogs mauled a 55-year-old man in 2011 after he fell down from a seizure. Following the incident, Gleason said, his department went in and removed 79 dogs [from the area where the man was killed]. “And it looked like we never touched it,” he added...more

Subcommittee Chairman Opposes Rio Grande del Norte National Monument

Following Interior Secretary Ken Salazar’s visit to Taos last month to discuss protecting the Rio Grande del Norte, a Utah congressman announced his opposition to creating a national monument around the area, The Taos News reported. Sen. Jeff Bingaman, D-N.M., has proposed legislation to protect a 236,000-acre area including the Rio Grande Gorge, Ute Mountain and San Antonio Mountain in Taos and Rio Arriba counties, and both Bingaman and Sen. Tom Udall, D-N.M., have called on President Barack Obama to create a national monument to protect the area, The News said. Two days after Salazar’s visit to Taos, Rep. Rob Bishop, R-Utah, who chairs the House Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests and Public Lands, issued a statement opposing the designation, the paper reported. “It’s nice that Secretary Salazar held a meeting on Saturday, but many would argue that the gathering failed to provide sufficient opportunity for real public input and participation from the community, stakeholders and local leaders,” said the statement from Bishop’s office. “This is not the appropriate course that should be taken when considering new policies and land designations that affect so many livelihoods.”...more

Officials say no sign drilling ship Kulluk, grounded off Alaska island, leaking fluids

Crews aboard two aircraft flew over an oil drilling ship Tuesday that went aground in a severe Alaska storm and saw no sign that the vessel was leaking fuel or that its hull had been breached. The Royal Dutch Shell drilling rig used this summer in the Arctic was aground off a small island near Kodiak Island, where the ship, the Kulluk, appeared stable, said federal on-scene response coordinator Capt. Paul Mehler. "There is no sign of a release of any product," Mehler said during a news conference at unified command center at an Anchorage hotel. When the storm eases and weather permits, the plan is to get marine experts onboard the Kulluk to take photos and videos, and then come up with a more complete salvage plan. The rig ran aground Monday on a sand and gravel shore off an uninhabited island in the Gulf of Alaska. Mehler said the Kulluk is carrying about 143,000 gallons of diesel and about 12,000 gallons of lube oil and hydraulic fluid...more

Fresh faces to watch in 2013: Deb Fischer

Deb Fischer is more of a rancher than a politician. Plucked from obscurity as a Nebraska state legislator, Fischer won the state Republicans’ nomination in an upset against two state favorites who spent their campaigns fighting each other while she ran as an hardworking mother, rancher, and political outsider. But inside Washington, the former state senator Fischer’s views are not so affable: she has vowed to repeal the Affordable Care Act, the Dodd-Frank Act and the No Child Left Behind Act, while reducing taxes and balancing the federal budget. She campaigned on small government and plans to cut “ineffective agencies, such as the Federal Highway Administration.” Endorsed by Sarah Palin, Deb Fischer also campaigned on her ability to negotiate and build alliances, though her Democratic adversaries told The New York Times she was not known for reaching across the aisle in Nebraska’s heavily Republican legislature; instead, she was known for her “steadfast conservatism.”  Fischer shies away from rousing speeches. The Times described her as a bold politician, with a “style of going from desk to desk, office to office, trying to persuade colleagues to sign on to bills she agreed with—or to stay away from those she did not.”  MSNBC

For a PBS Q&A with Fischer go here.

California Crime Drops As Gun Sales Surge

Los Angeles officials recently lauded their gun buyback program on Wednesday that bribed gun owners with a Ralph’s gift card worth either $100 or $200, depending on the type of gun they turned in. On Wednesday, the LAPD collected 2,037 guns including handguns, rifles, “assault” weapons and one rocket launcher. In total, these buybacks have pulled in about 10,000 California guns since the program began in 2009. While officials are celebrating these programs and saying that these events will make California streets safer, gun sales there have shot up significantly in the past 10 years. In 2002, 350,000 guns were sold in California, but last year, over 600,000 were sold. So a couple thousand guns were turned in last week, but that’s nothing compared to the hundreds of thousands bought last year alone. What’s also telling is the overall drop in crime that corresponded to the increase in gun sales:

 “Gun deaths and injuries have dropped sharply in California, even as the number of guns sold in the state has risen, according to new state data…. During that same period, the number of California hospitalizations due to gun injuries declined from about 4,000 annually to 2,800, a roughly 25 percent drop, according to hospital records collected by the California Department of Public Health. Firearm-related deaths fell from about 3,200 annually to about 2,800, an 11 percent drop, state health figures show. Most of the drop in firearm-related injuries and deaths can be explained by a well-documented, nationwide drop in violent crime. The number of California injuries and deaths attributed to accidental discharge of firearms also has fallen. The number of suicide deaths involving firearms has remained roughly constant.”

Monday, December 31, 2012

Elderly Couple at Dinner

An elderly couple, who were both widowed, had been going out with each other for a long time. Urged on by their friends, they decided it was finally time to get married. Before the wedding, they went out to dinner and had a long conversation regarding how their marriage might work. They discussed finances, living arrangements and so on. Finally, the elderly gentleman decided it was time to broach the subject of their physical relationship. "How do you feel about sex?" he asked, rather tentatively. "I would like it infrequently," she replied. The old gentleman sat quietly for a moment, adjusted his glasses, leaned over towards her and whispered, "Is that one word or two?"

Cowgirl Sass & Savvy

New Year make’em and break’em resolutions

By Julie Carter

What do you know about the New Year’s celebration except it is when you make resolutions you won’t and don’t keep?

January 1st wasn’t always the day celebrated for the New Year although the celebration is one of the oldest of holidays.

It was first observed in ancient Babylon about 4000 years ago. Around 2000 BC, Babylonians celebrated the beginning of a new year on what is now March 23. It made more sense in that it was the time of year that spring began and new crops were planted. There is no astronomical or agricultural significance for January 1st.

The Roman senate, in 153 BC, declared January 1st to be the beginning of the New Year and Julius Caesar did the same in 46 BC for the Julian calendar.

George Washington began the custom of holding a party on New Year's Day where everyone was welcome. This became known as having an "open house" and the tradition continues today with the additional entertainment of football games on television.

Regional foods help welcome the New Year in various parts of America. In Pennsylvania Dutch country, eating sauerkraut on New Year's Day is said to bring good luck. In the South the custom is to eat black-eyed peas. More often now, people use Tylenol to cure their celebration pain.

Making resolutions on the first day of the New Year dates back to the early Babylonians. While popular modern resolutions might include the promise to lose weight or quit smoking (again), the Babylonian's most popular resolution was to return borrowed farm equipment.

In cowboy country, resolutions would include a solemn promise to never eat Brussels sprouts, tofu, skinless chicken breasts, spinach-anything or fermented cabbage.

On the upside, that same cowboy might dream of swearing off breaking ice, shoveling manure or owning any horse named Bronc. High on that dream list would be riding shorter days, sleeping longer nights followed by never having to use a pitchfork or do any work that requires a shovel or a mechanic’s tool box.

Of course all those dream resolutions come because the thought is -- if you are going to make yourself promises you can’t keep; you may as well make big ones.

I would like to resolve to be more disciplined with my work, smile more often when I’d really rather not, and first look to find praise for someone or something before I find criticism. I would like to act better today than I thought possible yesterday and set a higher standard for tomorrow.

I resolve to not mention the words exercise, diet, or botox in the same sentence with my name. Health and beauty (inside or out) should be a natural daily process, not a resolution.

I will continue to remind myself that January 1st is the day after December 31st and the day before January 2nd. Nothing more. I will strive to remember that everyday is a gift, tomorrow is never promised to us, and that the people in my life are precious. If they aren’t, then I need to look again.

I live an abundant blessed life and want to never fail to recognize that.  But most of all I want to resolve to be resolute-- firm in purpose, belief and unshakeable determination.

With or without resolutions, may the coming year bring to you all of what you need and even some of what you want.

Julie can be reached for comment at

State Management of Federal Lands

The State of New Mexico
Agency Ascendancy
The state of the United States Forest Service
By Stephen L. Wilmeth

             Frank 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.
            Representative 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.
            More 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 evolving.
            The minutia 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.
            Should believers of the 9th and 10th Amendments have reason for headaches?
            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.
            Unfortunately, $.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.
            The 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.
            The 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.
            That total 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 Service
            An 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 Service).
            That agency mirrors the State of New Mexico’s $5.6 billion budget with a $5.5 billion counterpart.
            Net 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 catastrophic fire.
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.
SLO tenants
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.

Stephen 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.”


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 public lands.
·  Mining interests generally.
·  Petroleum conservation on public lands and conservation of the radium supply in the United States.
·  Preservation of prehistoric ruins and objects of interest on the public domain.
·  Public lands 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".