Issues of concern to people who live in the west: property rights, water rights, endangered species, livestock grazing, energy production, wilderness and western agriculture. Plus a few items on western history, western literature and the sport of rodeo... Frank DuBois served as the NM Secretary of Agriculture from 1988 to 2003. DuBois is a former legislative assistant to a U.S. Senator, a Deputy Assistant Secretary of Interior, and is the founder of the DuBois Rodeo Scholarship.
Sunday, September 18, 2016
Reserved by the United States
Reserved by the United States
By Stephen L. Wilmeth
been working in our Coldiron Pasture.
It is our
southern pasture and its southernmost extension runs along I-10 for a number of
miles. The highway traffic is always heavy with DOT data showing something over
15,000 vehicles per day. When the wind is right, you can hear the traffic 12
miles north. When you are off the pavement, though, there is still a sense of
solitude in the absence of people with their cars and chatter.
needed a shot of that solitude.
has always been important to me. It is one of the compelling drivers of wanting
to do what I do. As a kid, I remember moments of building euphoria sitting
quietly somewhere staring at a big vista or absorbing the nuances of the smells
and charm of an old set of corrals. Those were times when solitude contributed
to the dreams and hopes of a brighter future.
Today, moments of solitude are
spent just hoping there is a future.
As one of
nearly 40 ranches now impacted by the Organ Mountains
National Monument, we
operate in a world of uncertainty. One thing we know is that the proclamation,
designating the monument against any and all objections we had, shall be deemed
to revoke any existing withdrawal, reservation, or appropriation and that the
national monument unto itself shall arise to be the dominant reservation. All
of us, the more than 75 families that rely on these lands to make our living,
have been relegated not to the purpose but to the “uses” of the land.
no assurances and that is made more tenuous in a letter by the monument manager
indicating our livestock presence would be judged on the basis of biological
objects, and, if grazing shall be found incompatible with the protection of
those objects, the “Secretary shall retire the grazing allotments pursuant to
the processes of applicable law”.
don’t appear in the proclamation of our monument, but they were signed under
signature and communication of the designated BLM manager. They are in the
hands of every land steward whose lives depend on these lands.
needed a shot of that solitude yesterday.
Heinrich, Flake, and ACE
The argument for the monument
was the economic stimulus it would provide to the county and the area. Two
years into the designation there is no discernible increase in traffic. We have
noticed the installation of signs, but that, too, is a matter of concern. The
sign on our ranch is framed against the backdrop of the north side of Massacre Peak, the flat-topped massive north of
I-10 at the 116 interchange. The problem with the framing isn’t the view of the mountain
as much as it is the parcel of our private land landlocked within the monument.
As to the
mountain, it is not just a physically imposing feature. It is the site of
significant historical features including the installation of a signal mirror
that General Crooke employed in field communications during the hunt for
Geronimo. The peak also overlooks a stretch of the Butterfield Trail and the
site of a massacre that occurred before 1880 when a caravan of Mexican traders
with their carts pulled by oxen was attacked by Apaches who had escaped from Ft. Sumner
and were raiding down the Rio Grande
on their way back to Apacheria.
Something is terribly wrong,
however, with this monument moment. The lands featured are not just federal
lands. They are either private as noted in the former or state trust land as
noted in the latter.
The fact is New Mexico state trust lands and our private
in holdings are more important than ever. It is only there that we can count on
future enhancements that make our ranches more viable in a changing economic
landscape. It is there our water improvements must be concentrated.
By Federal law and regulation, it
is also there that money can be co-opted into investment infrastructure that
benefits wildlife and livestock alike. Too few citizens understand that the
rancher and his private land holdings are critical in the flow of money into
projects whose genesis came out of the Dust Bowl era. The two critical features
for such projects are the private land steward and his private land holdings. They
must be in the loop for such projects to be considered and approved.
In New Mexico, state trust lands have formed a
strong partnership with private lands for such infrastructure investments. Monument
ranchers have long realized that their future rests heavily to exclusively on
those trust lands that were set forth in the state’s enabling legislation. In
every township, sections 2, 16, 32, and 36 were reserved for funding the
state’s educational fund. This distribution of land provides for strategic
infrastructure construction that may not be available on private lands because
of the minority standing of land ownership footprint across this area.
Government dominates our landscape and private lands are normally not dispersed
enough for critical water distribution.
The announcement that New Mexico
Senator Martin Heinrich, champion of all national monument expansion, and
Arizona’s Jeff Flake were working together to introduce legislation, ACE, that
would accelerate trades or the purchase of state trust lands within national
monument footprints is becoming horrifying to every rancher who faces the
monument avalanche. When I read the overview from Mrs. Thomas on my smart phone,
I had to exit the confines of my pickup. That is the reason I shut down in the
middle of the pasture and sought solitude upon the grass and the soil that has
come to dominate my existence.
Like every rancher neighbor, I toil
incrementally everyday seeking opportunities that make our operation more
efficient. Over the past several weeks, the target has been water in that
Coldiron Pasture. With our whole herd movement, trough space has emerged to be
a critical limiting factor and we are working to reduce that constraint. It is
not from some RFP that is let to do this work. It is us. Very simply our future
relies solely on state and private lands where we can actually affect
improvements and cling to staying power.
Most importantly, we are the
stewards of significant historical operations that date to the middle of the 19th
Century. Surely, someone should recognize that on the basis of water alone!
Heinrich and Flake are touting their
legislation for its economic boon to state educational funding. We were told,
the public was told, that the establishment of this monument would not
negatively impact lands within the new designation(s). Their proposal now
clearly discloses the truth that all along there were insurmountable challenges
that both public and private land managers face in monument designations, but the
state side of the ledger is about to get relief.
Moreover, the state is about to get
a mechanism placed in their hands that will make them advocates for more
monuments rather than antagonists. The rationale is simple. If the state can
trade lands into growth corridors of communities like Las Cruces where they can
transact land sales, or, more importantly, gain commercial leases predicated on
urban expansion rather than livestock leases of uncertain future, they will
back future federal actions every time.
Feature six in the senators’ ACE
announcement indicates “Grazing rights are grandfathered and appurtenant water
rights may be conveyed with the lands”, but that conveyance will not be into
private hands. Rather, that conveyance will be to the every more powerful federal
landlord. He will further protect traditional cultural properties on public
lands which will require “Tribal consultation”, but any private land protections
are silent because there is no prevailing legislative protection.
The state trust lands have been our
by the United States
In my search for solitude after exiting my
pickup, turf inspection was the order, but there was more. I hearkened back to
the clause in the proclamation, both the actual order by this president for his
monument that governs our existence and the proclamation either erroneously or
purposely sent by the monument manager from which she will be operating in the short
run. It reads, “Lands and interests in lands within the proposed monument not
owned by the United States
shall be reserved as a part of the monument upon acquisition of title thereto
by the United States”.
It is clear the State will be taken
care of, but what about us, the private citizens, whose private lands are
reserved for future federal acquisition and control. Where is this Union that elevates all government over the rights and
privileges of private citizenry?
I must say I have no answer. The only
thing that makes any sense to me is the turf on which I live … to improve.
L. Wilmeth is a rancher from southern New
Mexico. “Jeff Flake comes from a ranching family.
Doesn’t he understand the negative implications of removing the state buffer from
For the press release and a copy of the Advancing Conservation and Education (ACE) Act, go here
the letter from the monument manager (dated August 5, 2016) referred to by
Wilmeth, it mistakenly states “On March 30, 2009, by Presidential Proclamation
7318, the PTNM was established…”.In
fact, the PTNM was established by Title 2 of the Omnibus Public Land Management
Act of 2009.
Proclamation 7318 established the Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument, and it is
in that proclamation where the language “…the
Secretary shall retire the grazing allotments pursuant to the processes of applicable
law” is found.