Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Commissioners discuss appeal of forest lawsuit

County Commissioners discussed the controversial lawsuit brought against Otero County and the State of New Mexico by the Lincoln National Forest at their meeting last Thursday. The lawsuit, which was not a scheduled item on the agenda, was talked about when a concerned Otero County resident brought up the issue trying to find some answers. In October, Commissioners decided to appeal a federal ruling from the U.S. District Court for the District of New Mexico on a resolution authorizing them to remove trees from the Lincoln National Forest. Concerned resident Donna Swanson said not much has been said about the issue and the public deserves to know what is going on. Commissioner Janet White said with the County’s new in-house attorney she is confident that the court fees are going to be minimal. County Attorney Lisa Jenkins said she has prepared a summary of the case and understands it’s a complex civil issue and the County is only doing what they think is right. “We’ve prepared a summary for the case, I understand these are complex civil issues and the summary can be made available for anyone that is interested in the case. There is some very detailed issues and this is really more about forest management and Otero County’s participation in forest management. Unfortunately, we didn’t do this, they sued us,” Jenkins said. “In this case, the Commissioners voted to pursue the action so that’s what this is.” In the summary that Jenkins prepared, it states that Otero County argued that the New Mexico statute and Otero County Resolution are constitutional because the 10th Amendment reserves to the state and counties, certain inherent police powers to abate a nuisance or threat on federal lands to ensure the protection of health, safety, and welfare of New Mexico citizens. The summary also states that the Property Clause does not grant Congress the power to regulate federal lands when the regulation impedes New Mexico’s sovereign police powers per the 10th Amendment, to protect its citizens from danger caused by or on federal lands...more

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