Friday, November 30, 2012

AAA urges EPA to halt approval of E15 for vehicles

AAA, the nation's largest travel organization, on Friday urged the Obama administration to halt the sale of E15 — a new fuel with a higher blend of ethanol — because of possible engine damage to most vehicles on the nation's roads. AAA, which has 53 million members, said it has found in a new survey a strong likelihood of consumer confusion and the potential for voided warranties and vehicle damage as a result of the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) recent approval of E15 gasoline for 2001 model vehicles and newer. All vehicles on the road can travel on E10 — which is 10 percent ethanol. Corn advocates successfully petitioned the EPA to approve E15, which is 15 percent ethanol, for vehicles since 2001. But the fuel is only being sold at a handful of stations. The EPA said in a statement it shares AAA's concern about educating consumers, but didn't directly address the request that it halt the sale of the fuel...more

Lesser Prairie Chicken Proposed For ‘Threatened Species’ Listing

Today the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced the start of a process that could lead to the listing of the Lesser Prairie Chicken as a ‘threatened species’ under the Endangered Species Act. The bird lives in the grasslands of the Texas panhandle, as well as in Oklahoma, New Mexico, Kansas, and Colorado. The proposal to list it as “threatened” rather than “endangered” allows Fish and Wildlife more flexibility in crafting conservation measures for the animal. Under the listing, “we can tailor ‘take’ prohibitions under section 4d of the Act,” Leslie Gray, Texas Public Affairs Specialist with the Service, told StateImpact Texas. A “take” is an action that harms, harasses or kills the animal. Gray says the Service has crafted special rules for other animals in the past. “We’ve done that for species such as the Preble’s Meadow Jumping Mouse and the California Tiger Salamander. And basically in those 4d rules it allows ‘takes’ associated with routine farming and ranching operations because it was determined that that ‘take’ was not significant to the species,” said Gray. She said the service would now investigate whether similar rules could be crafted for the Lesser Prairie Chicken. While some conservationists may have preferred a proposal for the more stringent “endangered” listing, many politicians as well as business interests had lobbied against that move. Conservative Oklahoma Senator James Inhofe called the listing  “very good news,” according to NewsOK...more

Steve Pearce (R-NM) released the following statement:

 Today, U.S. Congressman Steve Pearce responded to the announcement by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service that the Lesser Prairie Chicken is being considered for listing under the Endangered Species Act.

“Unfortunately, our jobs and our way of life in southern New Mexico continue to come under assault” said Pearce.  “The prairie chicken is yet another example that federal species regulation is not based on science, but rather driven by lawyers for extreme interest groups, like Santa Fe-based WildEarth Guardians, who filed the lawsuit in this case.  These groups have filed hundreds of job-killing petitions, often at taxpayer expense, while never having to live with the consequences to the local communities.”
“I am confident that the Fish and Wildlife Service has learned through the dunes sagebrush lizard case that New Mexico successfully protects our species through local, state and regional agreements.  I have always supported these conservation efforts, and I will continue to hold the Fish and Wildlife Service accountable to allow a balanced, local approach that protects the species without threatening New Mexico’s jobs.”
Despite having faced one of the worst droughts on record in recent years, the prairie chicken population is on the rise or holding steady in many parts of the country, suggesting the success of current agreements and calling into question the need for federal regulation. 

Texas braces for return of drought

Water managers are eyeing their gauges, farmers are watching wheat fields whither, ranchers are recalculating their herd numbers and city dwellers are dragging out their sprinklers again as drought rapidly intensifies across Texas. A new federal survey shows the dreaded "d-word" is worming its way back as rainfall deficits mount and soil moisture, stream flows and water reserves quickly decline. Ninety-four percent of Texas is now abnormally dry, 54 percent is stuck in severe drought and 25 percent is mired in the extreme category, up 10 percent from one week ago, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor released Thursday. For now, one year after a record Texas drought caused $7.62 billion in agricultural losses, 6 million acres of winter wheat are the biggest concern. Forty to 45 percent of the crop is rated poor to very poor, a 15-point jump from last week, the U.S. Drought Monitor reported. "There's not much to eat out there. I remember the drought in the 1950s and I think we are in the same situation," said Francis, whose boot-level view mirrors the pessimistic assessment of Texas state climatologist John Nielsen Gammon. "I say we are in year three of a drought now and the short-range forecast is not promising. There's nothing out there that will distinguish this from the drought of record in the 1950s which lasted six or seven years," Nielsen Gammon said. "It's grim, it looks like Texas is going to have between the second- to fourth-driest October-November period on record," he said. "We're ahead of the drought pace from two years ago." The state is quickly catching up with this year's dire conditions in the High Plains, where 86 percent of the region is mired in severe drought and 27 percent is in exceptional drought, the most severe category. That same unease is dogging ranchers in Texas where 53 percent of pastures are in poor to very poor condition, according to the drought report. After reducing herds by nearly 700,000 head last year, ranchers are taking a wait-and-see attitude before restocking the range, said Eldon White, vice president of the Fort Worth-based Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association. "A lot of cows still have wheels under them. I don't think a significant portion have moved back to Texas. We don't have the capacity to increase our herd until Mother Nature heals the land," he said. The mammoth Four Sixes Ranch headquartered in Guthrie trucked more than 75 percent of its herd out of state last year and doesn't plan on hauling them back anytime soon, said general manager Joe Leathers...more

Federal investigation into lamb pricing launched

The federal government will investigate rancher complaints of unfair lamb prices, which have collapsed for producers even as market prices have skyrocketed. The Grain Inspection Packers and Stockyards Administration notified producers earlier this week that its Denver office is looking into the drastic changes in price spreads. Ranchers have seen lamb profits evaporate as prices of more than $2 a pound a year ago fell to less than a dollar this fall, while at same time retail prices hit $7 a pound in some areas. The U.S. Department of Agriculture responded to the collapse by buying lamb, which should have helped ranchers and closed the price spread. But ranchers say the benefits of the federal commodity purchases never reached the farm and ranch gate. Severe drought in sheep country helped trigger the purchases. “There’s no drought assistance for meatpackers,” said Peter Orwick of the American Sheep Industry. “I can see where the spread is. I can’t see where they helped the farm-ranch gate price.” Lawmakers from several Western states, among them Democratic U.S. Sens. Max Baucus and Jon Tester of Montana, wrote to the USDA in October requesting the investigation. So did the Billings-based Ranchers-Cattlemen Action Legal Fund, United Stockgrowers of America, which saw similarities between pricing problems for lambs and cattle...more  

Of course the commodity purchases didn't help the ranchers. But the purchases did help the politicians get through the election cycle. I also can't help but note Tester was up for re-election this year and his letter was conveniently sent in October, just before the election. It worked for him and we can expect similar exploits from our buddies in the Senate.  Things won't change until the folks wake up and bring an end to it.

Feds File Motion to Weaken Ranchers' Claim

Attorneys for the federal government argued this month to dismiss a key portion of a lawsuit concerning grazing rights on historic land grant areas in Northern New Mexico. Plaintiffs say if approved by the federal judge, the motion would limit damages that could be recovered. The lawsuit, filed in January against the U.S. Forest Service by the Jarita Mesa and Alamosa livestock grazing associations, two dozen Hispanic ranchers with permits to graze in the Carson National Forest, and the Rio Arriba County commissioners, focuses on a 2010 decision by Carson National Forest El Rito District Ranger Diana Trujillo to cut cattle grazing by 18 percent on the Jarita Mesa and Alamosa grazing allotments. “Plaintiffs and their ancestors are Hispanic stockmen whose families have been grazing livestock in this area for many generations,” the plaintiffs’ lawsuit states. “In fact, most of their families were grazing livestock in this area before the United States Forest Service existed. Grazing livestock is an integral part of their existence and is a central part of life in the villages they reside in and in all of Northern New Mexico.” Rio Arriba County officials and ranchers say Trujillo retaliated against them, violating their First Amendment rights, by cutting grazing by 18 percent after the ranchers complained to their legislators and the forest service about Trujillo’s management of grazing issues. They contend the forest service is trying to push them from land that has been ranched by their families for centuries, and that Trujillo veered from normal practices by not implementing the stocking levels recommended by forest service scientists, which would have kept the number of livestock head unchanged from 1980, with modified rangeland improvement...more

Thursday, November 29, 2012

They Are Going To Make It Nearly Impossible To Pass On A Farm Or A Business To Your Children

If you have a farm or a small business, would you like to pass it on to your children when you die?  Well, unless Congress does something, it is going to become much, much harder to do that starting next year.  Right now, there is a 5 million dollar estate tax exemption and anything above that is taxed at 35 percent.  But on January 1st, the exemption will go down to 1 million dollars and the tax rate will go up to 55 percent.  A lot of liberals are very excited about this, because they believe that the government will be soaking wealthy people like Warren Buffett and Bill Gates.  But the truth is that a lot of farms, ranches and small businesses will be absolutely devastated by this change in the tax law.  There are many farmers and ranchers out there today that do not make much money but are sitting on tracts of land that are worth millions of dollars.  According to the American Farm Bureau, approximately 97 percent of all farms and ranches in the United States would be subject to the estate tax if the exemption was reduced to just a million dollars.  That means that the children of these farmers and ranchers would be faced with a very cruel choice when it is time to inherit these farms and ranches.  Either they come up with enough money to pay the government about half of what the farm or ranch is worth, or they sell the farm or ranch that may have been in their family for generations.  Needless to say, most farm and ranch families do not have that kind of cash lying around.  Most of them are just barely making it from year to year.  So this change in the tax law is going to greatly accelerate the death of the family farm in America.  This is also going to devastate many family-owned small businesses.  Many small businesses don't make much money, but they have buildings or land or assets worth millions of dollars.  Children that may have wanted to continue the family legacy will be forced to sell because of the massive tax bill that they get from Uncle Sam.  This is an insidious cruelty, and it shows just how broken our system has become...more

Editorial: Reno PBS station outlines threat to ranchers, miners

Anyone who hasn’t been able to wrap their head around the contentious sage grouse issue can get an easy, one-hour lesson from the Public Broadcasting Service. Reno affiliate KNPB debuted its documentary “The Endangered West: Stewards of the Rangeland” Sunday night. As its title implies, this show looks at threats to ranching. Promotional ads reveal the specific form of threat by showing a photo of a sage grouse. Nevada Rangeland Resources Commission sponsored the documentary, but it includes interviews with Idaho ranchers as well. “The sage grouse issue is actually more about who’s going to control the use of the lands in the West than it is about the bird,” Elko County rancher and commissioner Demar Dahl tells KNPB. Interspersed between the testimonials from ranchers are clips from an interview with Jon Marvel, head of Western Watersheds Project. The group recently received a favorable court ruling in its effort to get the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to list the sage grouse as a threatened species. Quinton Barr of Western Range Service in Elko outlines the conundrum over a species that is considered to be so plentiful that hunting them is allowed, yet so threatened that their survival allegedly depends upon closing off 50 million acres of public land to grazing, mining or other uses...more

Mystery bird spotted at NM national refuge

Wildlife managers at one of the nation's premiere bird-watching spots have a mystery on their hands. A strange-looking bird with dark plumage showed up at the Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge earlier this month to join the tens of thousands of cranes and geese that spend the winter in the Rio Grande Valley. The problem: No one knows exactly what kind of bird it is. The debate has spread from the refuge's fields and wetlands onto Facebook, where guesses have ranged from some kind of mutant to a Thanksgiving turkey disguised as a crane for self-preservation. Birding experts from New York to California continued studying photographs of the bird Thursday, spurring even more theories. The refuge posted a photograph of the bird on its Facebook page this week, sparking dozens of comments. Aside from the disguised turkey and oil-slicked bird theories, some suggested it could be a hybridization between a crane and an emu or a trumpeter, which are native to South America. It could be a sandhill crane that has come down with a feather-staining fungal infection. Or maybe he—or she—has a genetic disorder that results in too much melanin production. "It's different. It's got to be a hybrid-cross more than likely, but what, we don't know," Refuge Manager Aaron Mize told The Associated Press in a phone interview...more

Columbus Gun Smugglers Linked to ‘Fast & Furious’

A gun smuggling operation run by former Columbus town officials had a direct link to targets of the bungled “Fast and Furious” operation run by federal officials in Arizona, according to reports obtained by the Journal. Federal prosecutors have sought to distance the Columbus gun smuggling case – code-named “The Good, The Bad and The Ugly”- from the Arizona probe, which has been the subject of a two-year congressional investigation and a running battle between Republicans and Attorney General Eric Holder. But reports obtained by the Journal show that in April 2010, federal agents were aware that the leader of the Columbus ring – town trustee Blas “Woody” Gutierrez – had been stopped a few months earlier with weapons purchased by a suspected “straw man” involved in the Fast and Furious case in Arizona. In the Fast and Furious case, agents of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives allowed high-powered weapons purchased by straw buyers to “walk” into Mexico and had a failed plan to track and seize them. Of the 2,000 weapons purchased by the Arizona ring, 1,400 were never recovered and two were found at the murder scene of Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry on Dec. 15, 2010. In the New Mexico investigation, federal agents connected more than 200 gun purchases to the Columbus ring and recovered 40 weapons. Most of the AK-47-like pistols that were recovered were seized by law enforcement in January and February 2011 shortly before the Columbus gang was indicted...more

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

U.S. and Mexico team up to bring Wild Bison Back

The wild bison herd standing in the golden grass looked like they stepped out of a painting of the Old West. But this was Northern Mexico and these bison are part of a modern day effort to restore native grasslands. “There’s one of the males,” said Jose Luis Garcia Loya, pointing to one of the largest animals. Garcia Loya runs Rancho El Uno, an ecological reserve about 80 miles south of the border.  The majestic animals, also known as buffalo, once roamed North America by the millions, and their vast territory stretched into Northern Mexico. Bison were hunted to near extinction in the 1800s. Now, the U.S. and Mexico have teamed up to bring wild bison back. Nearly 46,000 acres at Rancho El Uno are part of an ambitious plan by the Nature Conservancy to restore grasslands destroyed by overgrazing. The Nature Conservancy also has wild bison in the United States in South Dakota, Missouri and Iowa. The herd in Janos did not migrate across the prairie. It started with 23 animals trucked across the border in 2010 from South Dakota. A three-year study by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature found restoring wild bison to their historic range would benefit the land in Canada, the United States and Mexico. Mexico’s president declared the 1.3 million acres surrounding Rancho El Uno a federally protected area and named it the Janos Biosphere Reserve.  The ranch is now cultivating the next generation of conservationists. Students in the area started their own ecological clubs after a field trip to see the bison...more

Remember the Buffalo Commons proposal?

The Buffalo Commons is a conceptual proposal to create a vast nature preserve by returning 139,000 square miles (360,000 km2) of the drier portion of the Great Plains to native prairie, and by reintroducing the buffalo, or American bison, that once grazed the shortgrass prairie. The proposal would affect six Western States (Montana, Wyoming, Colorado, Oklahoma, New Mexico, and Texas), and four Midwest states (North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, and Kansas. The proposal originated with Frank J. Popper and Deborah Popper, who argued in a 1987 essay[2] that the current use of the drier parts of the plains is not sustainable. The authors viewed the historic European-American settlement of the Plains States as hampered by lack of understanding of the ecology and an example of the "Tragedy of the Commons". The Poppers propose that a significant portion of the region be gradually shifted from farming and ranching use. They envision an area of native grassland, of perhaps 10 or 20 million acres (40,000 or 80,000 km²) in size. One way to achieve this would be through voluntary contracts between the Forest Service and Plains farmers and ranchers, in which owners would be paid the value of what they would have cultivated over the next 15 years. In the meantime, they would be required to plant and reestablish native Shortgrass prairie grasses and forbs, according to a Forest Service-approved program. At the end of the period, the Forest Service would purchase their holdings, while granting owners a 40-acre (160,000 m2) homestead.
And they are still pushing their proposal.  This from a 2011 article:

"We never really expected it to have the impact it did and does. We would have recoiled then that we would still be talking about it 23 years later. It's clear that in the intervening years a quiet muscle of reality, a lot of the trends we saw in the depopulation of the Plains has continued." Those trends have been born out in two censuses since the Poppers' initial research was published, the couple contends. "Young people leave and the people who stay are getting older. The Plains has for a long time had one of the highest median ages of any place in the country," Frank Popper said. "More positively, though, the Buffalo Commons has begun in clear ways to materialize." For one thing, he mentioned that buffalo production has increased. Banks are financing buffalo producers in increasing numbers and many Indian tribes use the Buffalo Commons as a central part of their land use planning. For another, the couple offers the increase in development of land easements. "You are seeing land purchases from The Nature Conservancy, (non-governmental organizations) like American Curry Foundation, the Grassland Foundation, and the Great Plains Restoration Council all are pursuing Buffalo Commons style buyouts," he said.

Of course this fits in nicely with The Wildlands Project, now called The Wildlands Network, and their Spine of The Continent Initiative.

The Wildlands proposal takes up central and southern NM, and the Buffalo Commons will consume the eastern part of the state.  We are so blessed with others who want to plan our lives for us.

Lawsuit Filed to Speed Reintroduction of Endangered Mexican Gray Wolves to Wild in Arizona, New Mexico

SILVER CITY, N.M.— The Center for Biological Diversity filed suit today challenging the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s failure to respond to the group’s 2004 petition calling for implementation of sweeping reforms in the management of the Mexican gray wolf population, which has grown by a scant three animals over the past eight years, leaving only 58 wolves in the wild today. Recommendations from a panel of scientists in 2001, which called for an immediate reduction in the number of Mexican gray wolves removed from the wild and an increase in the number released, have languished for 11 years even as the Service has repeatedly pledged to act on them.

“I’m appalled that more than 10 years have passed since a scientific panel convened by the Fish and Wildlife Service itself recommended dramatic changes in the Mexican wolf recovery program, yet the agency has failed to implement any of them,” said Michael Robinson, the Center’s Mexican wolf specialist. “The only wild Mexican wolf population on Earth is stagnant, and losing irreplaceable genetic diversity, because the Fish and Wildlife Service is ignoring the pleas of scientists and stalling on vital reforms.”

The Center’s 2004 petition requested implementation of three changes recommended by the 2001 science team, including allowing wolves to live outside the narrowly defined recovery zone; providing direct reintroduction of wolves into the extensive Gila, New Mexico portion of the recovery zone; and requiring livestock operators to remove livestock carcasses that attract wolves and make them more likely to depredate livestock. In 2006 the Center sued the agency to compel an answer to the petition. In response, the Fish and Wildlife Service pledged to consider the three changes in an upcoming rule-change process, and the case was deemed moot. The agency, however, has not proceeded with rulemaking.

“The Mexican wolf is a beautiful animal that’s essential to restoring the natural balance,” said Robinson. “Our government’s negligence may yet doom the Mexican wolf to extinction, so we are taking action in court before it’s too late.”

In the absence of these reforms, the recovery program has faltered with only six breeding pairs and 58 wolves presently in the wild — well short of the agency’s projection of 18 breeding pairs and 102 wolves by the end of 2006, with an interim goal of at least 100 wolves. This is, in part, because Fish and Wildlife has continuously removed wolves from the wild that established homes outside the recovery zone or because wolves have been killed by poachers or government agents, including the killing of wolves that had scavenged on unremoved carcasses of cattle and horses that died of causes unrelated to wolves. Had releases into the extensive habitat in the Gila been permitted, managers would likely have released more wolves from captivity. Recent research shows that because of the low number of animals, the population’s genetic diversity has been compromised through inbreeding, likely leading to small litter sizes and reduced pup-survival rates.

The Center is represented by attorneys from its staff and the Washington, D.C.-based, public-interest law firm Meyer Glitzenstein & Crystal.

Press Release

Sunland Peanut Butter Plant Closure Angers New Mexico Town

Farmers in a revered peanut-growing region along the New Mexico-Texas border should be celebrating one of the best harvests in recent memory. Instead, millions of pounds of their prized sweet Valencia peanuts sit in barns at a peanut butter plant shuttered for two months amid a salmonella outbreak that sickened 41 people in 20 states. Farmers are worried about getting paid for their peanuts, nearly a third the plant's 150 workers have been laid off, and residents wonder what toll an increasingly contentious showdown between the nation's largest organic peanut butter plant and federal regulators could ultimately have on the region's economy. The tension boiled over when the Food and Drug Administration on Monday said it was suspending Sunland Inc.'s registration to operate because of repeated safety violations, meaning the plant will remain indefinitely shut down as the company appeals the decision. The company had planned to reopen some its operations this week after voluntarily recalling hundreds of products and closing its processing and peanut butter plants in late September and early October. Many in this flat, dusty and solidly Republican farm town of about 20,000 denounce the FDA's tactics as unfair and unnecessarily heavy-handed – and become defensive about the shutdown of the largest private employer in town. "We had the best crop in years, and then these (expletives) came in and started this," said resident and local telecomm worker Boyd Evans. For the first time ever, the FDA is using authority granted under a 2011 food safety law signed by President Barack Obama that allows the agency to shut food operations without a court hearing...more

NM teenager arrested for shooting hawk

A Luna County man now faces possible federal charges after he admitted to shooting a Harris Hawk. On Saturday, the Luna County Sheriff's Office arrested William Hefley, 18, on an extreme cruelty to animals charge for shooting and killing a five-year-old Harris Hawk valued at $3,000. "He was out there to kill the family dog; it was old and had to be put down," Saenz said, noting Hefley initially denied shooting the bird and later confessed, but was short on the exact details surrounding the shooting. "He first said the hawk went into the line of fire." Hefley now faces a fourth degree felony approved by the Sixth Judicial District Attorney's Office. But Sheriff's investigators said the case is being turned over to the New Mexico Game and Fish Department, which could pursue federal charges for killing a protected species...more

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Working on other projects, hope to return soon.

Take Back Our Monument - Sonoran Desert National Monument

Below is an email received from Friends Of The Sonoran Desert National Monument.

This is exactly what the enviros are trying to bring to Dona Ana County: Wilderness and a National Monument.

See more info after the email.

Friends of the Sonoran Desert National Monument Logo Having trouble viewing this e-mail?
Americans will not be intimidated from using their public land!
When: Saturday December 1, 2012

Time: 9:00 am – 2:00 pm

Where: Table Top Wilderness Area, Sonoran Desert National Monument

Details: Join the Friends of the Sonoran Desert National Monument and the Bureau of Land Management to demonstrate that Americans will not be intimated from using their public land by removing trash and restoring a portion of the Table Top Wilderness Area damaged by illegal smugglers and undocumented aliens.

This event will involve hiking around 4-miles roundtrip in the Table Top Wilderness Area. Some hiking will be off trail over rough terrain.

Participants will meet on the Vekol Valley Road south of Exit 144 on Interstate 8 between Casa Grande and Gila Bend (Directions are below.) From this point we will caravan to the South Lava Flow Trailhead approximately 14-miles on a graded dirt road.

Participants should wear clothing and shoes appropriate for working outdoors, bring lunch, a water bottle, gloves and a pack. Water, snacks and tools will be provided.


East Valley: Drive on Interstate 10 south to the exit 164 for Maricopa and continue south through Maricopa on State Route 347 to State Route 84. Turn right (west) to Interstate 8 and drive to the Vekol Valley Road. Take exit 144 south to the Vekol Valley Road. Participants will meet at rendezvous point south of Interstate 8. This route is approximately 58-miles from the Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport.

West Valley: Take Interstate 10 west to Buckeye and take exit 112 for State Route 85 south to Gila Bend. From Gila Bend take Interstate 8 east to the Vekol Valley Road. Take exit 144 and travel south to the rendezvous point just south of Interstate 8. This route is approximately 115-miles from the Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport.

Registration required: Go to or call 480.648.9864 for more information and to register.
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In May of this year I posted about the BLM bringing in Rangers from across the west to run several sweeps through the Sonoran Desert and Ironwood National Monuments in southern Arizona. Here's what they found:

160 abandoned vehicles

110 bicycles

miles of illegal roads

27,000 lbs. of marijuana

1,200 illegal immigrants

24 tons of trash and "acres of plastic water bottles, coats, backpacks and other items cast off after trekking for days from the U.S.-Mexican border to rendezvous points 75 miles to the north."

And in June of 2010 I posted on how the problems at the Monument caused the BLM to erect the following sign:

That is our future in southern NM unless Wilderness and Monuments are stopped and more reasonable methods are used to protect these federal lands.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Cowgirl Sass & Savvy

The land of mañana

Julie Carter

I truly love New Mexico and all the idiosyncrasies that make it unique. There are things about New Mexico you can learn only by time spent here which is followed by the knowledge that normal is without definition. 

What once might have been questioned for its validity soon becomes completely accepted. Those that find issue with the way it is usually don't stay long anyway.

I have a list that some unknown person authored about living in New Mexico. I thought it to be humorous, correct and worth sharing.

All festivals across the state are named after a fruit or vegetable.
Onced and twiced are words.
Coldbeer is one word.
"Jeet?" is an actual phrase meaning, "Did you eat?"
100 degrees is just a "tad" warm.
The first cool snap (below 70 degrees) is described as good chilly weather.
Switching from "heat" to "A/C" in the same day is not unusual.
The wind blows at 90 mph from Oct. 2 until June 25; then it stops totally until Oct. 2.
When a buzzard sits on the fence and stares at you, it is time to see a doctor.
You come to know which leaves make good toilet paper.
You install security lights on your house and garage and leave both unlocked.
Carrying jumper cables for use on your own car is expected.
You think everyone from north of Farmington has an accent.
Distance is measured with time not miles. "It's about 45 minutes away."
Sweetened ice tea is appropriate for all meals and you start drinking it at age two.
Only four spices are found in your kitchen: Salt, pepper, catsup and Tabasco.
Sexy underwear is a tee shirt and boxer shorts.
The four seasons are: almost summer, summer, still summer and Christmas.
Fix-in-to is one word.
Green grass does burn.
Backwards and forwards means I know everything about you.
You work until you are done or it is too dark to see.
The sounds of coyotes howling at night only sound good for the first few weeks.
There is a valid reason why some people put razor wire around their house.
Nothing will kill a mesquite tree.
If it grows, it will stick you. If it crawls, it will bite you.
There are 5,000 types of snakes and 4,998 live in New Mexico.
There are 10,000 types of spiders and all 10,000 live in New Mexico plus a few undiscovered varieties.
The local paper covers national and international news on one page but requires six pages to cover Friday night high school football.
The first day of deer or elk season is a national holiday.

In 1985, when I moved from the Denver area to this Land of Enchantment, my initial impression of New Mexico was that the clock had been turned back at least two decades. 

While the charm of that was certainly as promised-- "enchanting" - it could also be very frustrating. Gearing life down from a metropolitan fast paced do-it-now we want-it-yesterday world was not easy.

But New Mexico has a solution for that too. It is called "mañana," - a word that is more than just a word.
It is an attitude that New Mexico wears with honor. A promise to all that arrive - don't bother to get in a hurry because we don't.

Julie can be reached for comment at

The Battle of Dona Ana County

The Battle of Dona Ana County
By Stephen L. Wilmeth

            There is a broken record being played from Dona Ana County, NM. The tune is not catchy. It is monotonous and it lacks any harmony.
Round six of the Organ Mountain Wilderness campaign is being played out, and the goal is designated wilderness in any shape or form. This is the most dangerous of all proposals and it is going to the President. The Antiquities Act is the angle and New Mexico’s Centennial Celebration is the excuse.
            The Acts
            The first hint the Organ Mountains (the familiar backdrop of Las Cruces, NM) was slated for wilderness was the assessment required by the Federal Lands Policy and Management Act. In 1991, Interior Secretary Manuel Lujan signed the Decision of Record and sent the matter to the president. Some 30,000 acres of the Organs was deemed to have wilderness characteristics by the BLM. Neither President George H.W. Bush nor any of his successors acted on the report.
            Before the turn of the century, New Mexico Congressman Joe Skeen, suggested a National Conservation Area (NCA) for the Organs. His 58,000 acre idea went nowhere.
            Round two began when the New Mexico Wilderness Alliance (NMWA) inventoried lands in 2003 for its own version of wilderness. Notwithstanding the BLM’s analysis, NMWA found 393,362 acres that met its standards.
            An effort was then made to get New Mexico Senator Pete Domenici to carry a bill to protect 217,500 acres. The proposal failed when he realized there wasn’t adequate local support. Domenici backed away and left a lingering void.
            In 2006, NMWA started round three with a suggestion for 325,407 acres of wilderness. That idea went nowhere until Senator Domenici retired in 2008 and the torch was passed to Senator Jeff Bingaman.  In 2009, Bingaman along with the NM’s new junior senator, Tom Udall, introduced S.1689 with 259,050 acres of wilderness and NCA buffers. The expectation was high. The Democrats controlled the White House, the Senate, the House, every natural resource committee, the governorship of New Mexico, and every governing body in Dona Ana County. The bill failed to get traction and died at the end of the 2010 session.
            In 2011, the NM senators were back. They started round five of the process with their S.1024 that now encompassed nearly 400,000 acres. The Organ Mountains-Dona Ana County Conservation and Protection Act had more than 241,000 acres of designated wilderness without a hint of that designation in its title.
By the end of that year, there was indication that bill was also going nowhere. Following the anti-Democratic backlash of the midterms of 2010, the House was no longer a favorable path to wilderness. New Mexico Republican Representative Steve Pearce was back in office and sought to blaze his own path for protective measures in the Organs. He introduced HM.4334, the Organ Mountain National Monument Establishment Act. It followed Skeen’s idea calling for 58,012 acres with protection for local customs and culture. The greens hated it.
            Round six was revealed in March, 2012 when the Las Cruces Sun-News announced the county was going to be home of America’s next major national monument. The Organ Mountains was the story line until a bit of simple math indicated they would only be 10 percent of the proposal. The new national monument was going to be 600,000 acres!
            The plan is a Bingaman-Udall bill on steroids. It took the boundaries of all plans and expanded them. What became most explosive, though, was that the plan was not going through congressional channels. The plan was going directly to President Obama under his authority of Executive Order.
            The Front Story
            The Dona Ana saga has become another federal lands debate with the proponents shaping the battlefield to focus on the ranching community. Their tactic has been one of patronizing support, but as soon as the debate becomes negative, the tune of ‘Cattle Free’ by ‘93 or ‘03 eerily reemerges. The green bias in the local papers has continued to explore that tired approach, but the community isn’t buying it.
            The issue of watershed management advanced by the local soil and water conservation districts and the Elephant Butte Irrigation District is an example. The county population is concentrated along the narrow Rio Grande Valley. Because residential growth has been forced into that narrow corridor, the losses of farmland and flood control are huge issues. Reclamation dams built more than 50 years ago now provide the primary protection for housing developments because growth has been disallowed onto less productive federal land not impacted by the flood plain. That problem is made infinitely worse when the Bingaman-Udall bill allows only 300 to 1000 feet buffers into those surrounding federal lands. Flood control management will be worst case because options will be limited to large scale projects within the buffer zones rather than lesser cost, upslope alternatives.
            Public scoping was nonexistent. A short list of scoping oversight impacted by the national monument footprint would include the domestic water supply to the village of Hatch, a major FAA radar site, a major microwave sight, more than 60 parcels of private land, nearly 70 percent of the cattle in the county, more than 80 sections of state trust land, and the headquarters of the largest ranch in the county, the Corralitos. It is a property rights debacle.
            What is more frightening comes from proponents’ publicized management plan recommendations.  Among the most offensive is the intent to acquire all private and state lands, the intent to disallow any new leases, and the ordering of the BLM to conduct yet another inventory to identify lands with wilderness characteristics. Their recommendation then demands to “manage those lands to protect those values”. That is an overt end run to de facto wilderness without Congressional action!
            Border security is another, continuing nightmare. The only thing that has kept the smuggling corridors in Dona Ana County from being full blown Arizona Class companion routes are the absence of cartel safe havens on the American side of the border. Designated wilderness and national monument will assure those save havens for the bad guys.
            The Back Story
            A most critical story isn’t being told. What the public sees is another classic federal lands conflict. It has a national security component with an inevitable run back to another public lands rancher debate. A rewilding component could be added for zest, but that still leaves the question why and how this county’s most influential governing bodies could support such anti-agricultural proposals when agriculture in the county returns more than $500,000,000 annually.
 Standing against the proposals are some powerful forces. The National Association of Former Border Patrol Officers, the New Mexico Farm Bureau, the Dona Ana County sheriff, the village of Hatch, the Las Cruces Chamber of Commerce, and more than 800 businesses have opposed all proposals. Their stance has meant nothing.
Ignoring the will of the majority of residents who have duties, responsibilities, and investments on the land affected, the Dona Ana County Commission and the Las Cruces City Council voted a combined 11-0 to pass resolutions supporting the 600,000 acre national monument. The commission then sent a member to Washington to present their resolution to the president with the assurance the county is fully united in support of the national monument.
That commission’s representative, Billy Garrett, is a retired Department of Interior official. He was a Park Service planner, and he knows about the process including contacts for national monument designation. City Councilor Nathan Small works for NMWA, the group that has repeatedly pushed the proposals. He has been assigned to the project since the beginning of the process. Both of these elected officials share a relationship to a man who has engineered an amazing series of campaign victories. Don Kurtz, a progressive campaign strategist and organizer, has successfully managed over 50 Dona Ana County campaigns in the last several years. He has demonstrated he will run a progressive candidate against an incumbent Democrat in a primary if the dynamics support a positive progressive outcome.        
Although some like Democratic City Councilors Greg Smith and Miguel Silva reject the notion, many believe Mr. Kurtz controls each of the votes in the recent 11-0 juggernaut. That is the troubling back story. How many of these organizers exist, and how do they operate without obvious support?
The Dona Ana County outcome is critical to local customs and cultures, but more is at stake. Many believe the persistence of this effort has more to do with future land use modeling than the landscape itself. That is the real story, and it must be stopped.

Stephen L. Wilmeth is a rancher from southern New Mexico. “Congress and Obama administration officials need to know that the only matter of Dona Ana County unity lies with protection of the Organ Mountains … the other 540,000 acres are embroiled in controversy and politics!”  

This article was originally published in the Fall 2012 edition of Range Magazine and is posted here with permission.