Thursday, February 18, 2016

La Bajada Mesa could be next for national monument status

by Thomas Ragan

With only 11 months left to go in President Barack Obama’s presidency, a host of preservationists and at least a pair of Santa Fe County Commissioners are hoping La Bajada Mesa, with its beautiful vistas and vast open space, will become a national monument—joining other greats in the state like the Aztec Ruins outside of Aztec, the Cliff Dwellings near Silver City, and Bandelier, just outside Los Alamos. 

But among all the hurdles that might be ahead, the idea first has to get through more than a few angry ranchers and residents who live in La Cienega and La Cieneguilla. 

Not only have they seen their private properties shrink in size over the years by an ever encroaching federal government, but their rights to graze and harvest and hunt have been drastically limited in their government-owned backyard. 

Since the days of Theodore Roosevelt, a Republican president who created the Antiquities Act, the designation of national monuments have all but petrified the legacies of more than a few presidents. Not to be undone or considered any sort of exception, Obama has already signed off on more than a dozen, with three just last week in California’s desert area, and he’s closing in on Bill Clinton’s record-setting 19. 

The mesa would be New Mexico’s 15th national monument, but first it has to beat out other notable contenders, like Otero Mesa, which has been waiting for a designation since 2012. The region sits in the southeastern part of the state, in an area surrounding by gas and oil drilling. 

…While Santa Fe County’s ranchers aren’t nearly as radical and are certainly more sensible, that’s not to say there is a certain amount of resentment and anxiety when it comes to the federal government, in this particular instance with the Bureau of Land Management and the US Forest Service, which together own 120,000 acres under consideration. 

“We’re in a doughnut hole here,” Jose Varela Lopez, a 55-year-old cattle rancher, tells SFR, referring to La Cienega and La Cieneguilla, which butt up against the proposed boundaries, tiny islands in a sea of government property.

“I don’t know what’s going on here or whether this is just one big kumbaya,” adds Varela Lopez, who’s taken his own personal plight as far as the US Congress, where he testified before a House of Representatives public lands use subcommittee a few years ago. “But whenever I hear the word ‘preservation,’ I start to worry. In order to preserve something, don’t you have to be destroying it first? 

“Well, we’re not destroying anything out here.”

Three weeks ago, he and at least a dozen cattlemen, a few dressed in cowboy boots and leather vests, showed up at a Santa Fe County Commission public hearing to voice their disapproval, and they ultimately convinced the commission to postpone a vote on a resolution that would have endorsed the designation before sending it off to Obama. 

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

2006 New Mexico Statutes - Section 47-1-34 — (Property Law) Rights included without enumeration.

47-1-34. [Rights included without enumeration.]

In a conveyance or mortgage of real estate all rights, easements, privileges and appurtenances belonging to the granted estate shall be included in the conveyance, unless the contrary shall be stated in the deed, and it shall be unnecessary to enumerate or mention them generally or specifically.