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.
Tuesday, May 06, 2014
Commissioners instruct sheriff to unlock forest gates
Otero County Commissioners instructed the county sheriff to unlock U.S. Forest Service fences in the mountains on Monday.
During a commission meeting to discuss the Forest Service's alleged illegal fencing activities within the county the commission and ranchers decided the USFS should unlock some of its fence gates to allow cattle easier access to water in the region.
District 1 Commissioner Tommie Harrell asked Forest Service Supervisor, Travis Moseley, to unlock a few gates to allow cattle easier access to water. Moseley replied with a simple no to Herrell's request.
"Now the procurement is since they won't, then we've instructed Sheriff Benny House to unlock those fences," Herrell said. "And we'll do this by court order."
According to Herrell, House is being ordered to unlock four gates to two enclosed areas near the Agua Chiquita riparian area. The order was issued on the heels of the commission's recent request for the USFS to halt fencing projects in April.
In April, the commission issued a cease and desist illegal fencing activities letter to the U.S. Forest Service. Ranchers that attended the meeting were concerned with the legality of the USFS fencing off their cattle from water supplies and the danger it causes to their livestock. "Fencing our cattle off of the water denies us our usage rights, and the cattle are only there three months in a normal rain year and six months during times of drought," rancher Judyann Holcomb Medeiros said. "During the drought, our cattle have to walk extended lengths to reach water. The fences also causes the cattle to use the heavily used county road, and we have had cattle hit and killed or severely crippled or damaged by the impacts."
Medeiros said she understood the Forest Service has recently been concerned with maintaining the riparian areas for the New Mexico Meadow Jumping Mouse but that she believed there was solid proof the species inhabiting the area.
Blair Dunn, an Otero County attorney, addressed the issue of the fences being put up to protect the potentially endangered species by saying the USFS doesn't have the right to appropriate water for wildlife.
"They have no lawful right to the stream," Dunn said. "So to pen something off for wildlife to go drink and to appropriate that water for wildlife when they don't have the necessary legal permits or rights to do so amounts to an illegal diversion of water."...more