Sunday, November 15, 2015

DuBois Column

Monumental grazing problems, a “terrorist rancher” injustice, and laser fences for airborne avians

Boy, was I wrong.

I, along with others, felt the anti-grazing language in the recent Presidential Proclamations designating the two new national monuments in New Mexico would set a precedent for all future monument designations. Environmental nirvana had been reached.  The enviros had lost some recent court cases seeking to limit grazing in national monuments and they needed new language in the Proclamations that would prevent such losses in the future.  They sought language that would allow them to tell the public that grazing was still allowed yet give them the legal hook to come in at a later date and have grazing removed or severely limited, and they got just what they wanted in the New Mexico proclamations.

Recall the New Mexico proclamations had the consistency language, saying grazing could continue as long as it was “consistent with the protection of the objects identified” in the proclamation.  The result is any current or future grazing practice will be subservient to the protection of those objects.  Multiple-use is discarded.

Then in July of this year, Obama issued a proclamation designating the 700,000 acre Basin and Range National Monument in Nevada.   When checking the grazing language in the Nevada proclamation – surprise, surprise – the consistency language is nowhere to be found.  In fact, it’s just the opposite as the proclamation goes out of its way to say the monument designation will not affect grazing:

Nothing in this proclamation shall be deemed to affect authorizations for livestock grazing, or administration thereof, on Federal lands within the monument. Livestock grazing within the monument shall continue to be governed by laws and regulations other than this proclamation.

In the New Mexico monuments, grazing is subservient to all the other objects to be protected, while in Nevada the monument designation has no effect on grazing.  How can this be?  Where is the “consistency” in this? Why are ranchers in one state treated differently than ranchers in a similar situation in another state?

You’ll have to ask NM Senators Udall and Heinrich.  The consistency language comes right out of their legislation, the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks Conservation Act.

In Nevada, Obama got his monument, but Harry Reid protected the ranching families in his state.  In New Mexico, Obama got his monument, and Udall and Heinrich stuck us with the most anti-grazing language yet to appear in a monument designation.

Ranchers as Terrorists

After a two-week trial in July of 2012, Oregon rancher Dwight Hammond, 73, and his son Steven Hammond, 46, were found guilty of setting fires that caused damage to federal property.  One fire burned 139 acres of federal land, the other only 1 acre.  The Hammonds claimed the fires were for range management purposes, the federal prosecutors said they were set for more nefarious reasons.  Now-retired U.S. District Judge Michael Hogan sentenced Steven Hammond to one year and a day in prison for setting intentional fires in 2001 and 2006, and ordered Dwight Hammond to spend three months behind bars for his involvement in the 2001 blaze.

That should have been the end of the story.  But it wasn’t.

The feds appealed claiming the ranchers should have received mandatory sentences of five years.  They had charged the ranchers with violation of the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act.  

That’s right, the feds were using a law aimed at terrorists to prosecute the ranchers and that law required the mandatory sentences. Judge Hogan had ruled that 5-year sentences would “shock the conscience”, would be grossly disproportionate to the offenses committed and violate the constitutional ban on cruel and unusual punishment.  A three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals agreed with the feds, however, and returned the case for sentencing. On October 7 of this year, both Hammonds received the mandatory minimum sentence of five years for deliberately setting fires that spread from their property onto federal land.  For comparison, other federal laws that carry five-year minimum sentences are for treason, child pornography, using a gun while committing a violent crime or importing drugs.

That should have been the end of this sad story.  But it wasn’t.

Capital Press posted an online article about the five year sentences and a person who identified himself as Greg Allum posted three comments on the article, calling the ranchers “clowns” who endangered firefighters and other people in the area while burning valuable rangeland.  The real Greg Allum, a retired BLM heavy equipment operator, called Capital Press and complained he hadn’t posted those comments.  “They’re not terrorists. There’s this hatred in the BLM for them, and I don’t get it,” Allum said.

The publication undertook a search of the Internet Protocol address associated with the comments and discovered the computer was owned by one of BLM’s offices in Denver, Colo.

Treat ranchers as terrorists and then use a government computer to publicly disparage them.  One is an injustice and the other is an abuse of federal equipment to ridicule private citizens.

Oregon Farm Bureau President Barry Bushue says this “is an example of gross government overreach, and the public should be outraged.  Today’s verdict is also hypocritical given BLM’s own harm to public and private grazing lands, which goes without consequence.”  Bushue continued, “This prosecution will have a chilling effect across the West among ranchers, foresters, and others who rely on federal allotments and permits.”

Collaboration anyone?

Laser fence

I’ve previously written about Toad Roads, Bee Highways, Prairie Dog Peanut Butter and Chicken Coop Solar Panels.  To that we can now add Laser “Light Fences” for Airborne Avians.

An electric cooperative in Hawaii is spending $2 million a year to keep birds from flying into power lines.  Working with the Kauai Endangered Seabird Recovery Project, this program uses lasers designed to focus green beams parallel to power lines near known flight paths of seabirds.  “These experimental techniques, if effective, could drastically reduce the cost to KIUC and its members for protecting endangered seabirds,” says the cooperative.

What we really need is a Laser “Heavy Fence” to keep government agents away.

Till next time, be a nuisance to the devil and don’t forget to check that cinch.

Frank DuBois was the NM Secretary of Agriculture from 1988 to 2003, is the author of a blog: The Westerner ( and is the founder of The DuBois Rodeo Scholarship

This column originally appeared in the NM Stockman and the Livestock Market Digest.

No comments: