Monday, May 16, 2016

Possible county road closure riles Bootheel residents

Take this gravel road through pale yellow grassland and dark, rugged mountains into the heart of a perennial conflict over public access to public lands in New Mexico. Drive it now, before Hidalgo County abandons it to a private landowner. County Road 001 cuts south through the Bootheel almost to the Mexican border. The road provides the surest access to prime hunting grounds for deer, pronghorn antelope and javelina; access to camping and hiking in the Coronado National Forest; and a passable path for local ranchers and emergency vehicles. But like many sparsely populated counties in New Mexico, Hidalgo County is strapped for cash. County manager Bob Hill – a neutral party – says the road may be too expensive to maintain at current levels. Commissioner Darr Shannon, a local businesswoman, has proposed abandoning nearly 9 miles of it, which would effectively revert the road to the Bootheel’s largest rancher, Seth Hadley. Locals say Hadley, who owns the sprawling Diamond A and Gray ranches, famously gates and locks the roads on his properties and has previously cut off access to public lands, including at Black Point. Numerous “no trespassing” signs flank Diamond A and Gray ranch gates off County Road 001...more

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