Tuesday, October 11, 2016
Speculation on the next Sec. of Interior, plus wolves, crickets and grasshoppers…
A New Mexican at Interior?
A respected D.C. publication recently ran a piece on prospects for the next Secretary of Interior, depending on who wins the Presidency.
If Clinton wins, among those mentioned were both N.M. Senators, Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich.
In the case of a Trump victory, one of the names mentioned was N.M. Governor Susana Martinez. In spite of their initial dust up, Trump now says, "I respect her. I have always liked her."
Score that enviros 2, cowboys 1.
On September 21 a Subcommittee of the House Natural Resources Committee held a hearing on “The Status of the Federal Government’s Management of the Wolf.” Part of the hearing was devoted to the Mexican Wolf and the lead witness was Alexandra Sandoval, Director of the NM Game Department.
Sandoval’s excellent and informative testimony covered the gamut, from the origins of the Mexican wolf program to recent controversies, but the primary focus was Section 6 of the Endangered Species Act, which requires the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (USFWS) to “cooperate to the maximum extent feasible with the states”.
Sandoval explains in her testimony:
Through Section 6, Congress incorporated into the Act principles of cooperative federalism memorialized in the United States Constitution. That is, the powers delegated to the federal government are few and defined and those which remain in the state governments are numerous and indefinite and extend to all the objects which concern the lives, liberties, and properties of the people, and the internal order, improvement, and prosperity of the states.
Sandoval then provides a litany of examples of where cooperation has not occurred, dividing the examples into three broad categories: 1) Lack of cooperation on wolf releases; 2) Lack of cooperation pertaining to and awareness of social and cultural considerations; and 3) the imposition of federal decisions and objectives over New Mexico’s stated concerns and objections.
And what has been the result of this failure to comply with the law and the overall haughty attitude of the USFWS? Sandoval explains:
The constitutional scholar Erwin Chemerinsky identified “state experimentation” as one of the main functions served by the federalist division of political authority in the United States.3 The Service’s failure to implement Congress’s mandate to cooperate with the States has unnecessarily stymied more robust state experimentation in the realm of species recovery. More often than not, through its sans-cooperation implementation of the Endangered Species Act, the Service co-opts species recovery efforts, leaving little or no opportunity for the States to pursue recovery on terms that fit state exigencies and eccentricities. The Mexican wolf recovery program is the cover story in the Service’s failure to cooperate story.
I’m reminded of the line from movie Cool Hand Luke, except in this situation it would be, “What we’ve got here is failure to cooperate.” Spoken, appropriately, by Strother Martin as the prison warden. Only in this case, the victims are not the members of a chain gang, but the entire citizenry of New Mexico.
Also testifying was Thomas Paterson, whose family runs cattle on both sides of the NM/AZ border.
Paterson explains that death loss is not the only impact on his operation:
We get lower body condition scores on our cows. That translates into reduced conceptions. We have lower weaning weights on our calves than we should. We spend many precious daylight hours moving our cattle to other pastures to avoid wolf concentrations. We also spend those precious hours monitoring for predators and looking for dead cattle. We spend time administratively dealing with the USFWS in New Mexico or the Arizona Game & Fish on reporting and compensation requests. Every kill consumes time on the ground—a couple hours to a half day--to meet with investigators and a couple hours administratively to request reports, submit reports and do follow up.
And those aren’t the only costs. For example, Paterson brings up the issue of employee retention and safety. Paterson said some cowboys will endure threats from bears, lions, coyotes, rattlesnakes and scorpions. But says Paterson, “The wolf is different. It doesn’t run away. We’ve had guys quit because they don’t want to deal with the wolf.”
Well, what about the vaunted rancher compensation program? “Don’t fool yourselves. There isn’t a real compensation program in place” testified Paterson, who then proceeded to provide example after example of it not working.
Also appearing before the subcommittee was Congressman Steve Pearce. Pearce informed the members of the many problems identified in the recent IG report, which I covered here last month. Pearce also noted there were several issues left unaddressed in the report, one of which was DNA testing. Pearce made a formal request that further investigation of the program be undertaken:
The deplorable management of the wolf program in Catron County hurt jobs in New Mexico, risked public safety, and failed to actually save any wolves. Today’s hearing made it clear that the agencies’ mismanagement of the program has continued. While the IG report was very eye opening, it failed to answer a number of substantive concerns brought up by the County. For these reasons, I believe that a deeper investigation into the program is absolutely warranted to ensure that those affected most are given the answers they deserve.
Score that cowboys 3, enviros 0.
Grasshoppers - the next sushi?
That’s the headline of a recent BBC article about “micro livestock”.
At Coalo Valley Farms – California’s first insect farm for human consumption – that means crickets and mealworms. On Jose Moreno’s farm in Mexico, that means grasshoppers.
A spokesman for Coalo Valley Farms says, “We know that insects are a sustainable source of protein - and while the world already struggles to feed seven billion, we want to try and help find a way to feed the future generations.” They tout their environment-friendly, closed-loop system where the fish they farm provide wastewater that feeds the green shoots of alfalfa and mung beans, which in turn feed the crickets.
No doubt one of these will soon be on Michelle Obama’s mandatory school lunch menu.
I’m betting on the grasshopper. Why? Because the cricket is an omnivore while the grasshopper is vegetarian.
As she departs the White House, Michelle Obama may be screeching, “Let them eat grasshoppers.”
Till next time, be a nuisance to the devil and don’t forget to check that cinch.
Frank DuBois was the NM Secretary of Agriculture from 1988 to 2003, is the author of a blog: The Westerner (www.thewesterner.blogspot.com) and is the founder of The DuBois Rodeo Scholarship and The DuBois Western Heritage Foundation
This column originally appeared in the October editions of the New Mexico Stockman and the Livestock Market Digest.