by Pat Boone
New Mexico Cattle Grower's Association President's Message
Dear Fellow Members & Industry Supporters,
We are very grateful for all who attended and participated in the Joint Stockmen’s Convention and New Mexico Cattle Growers’ Association 100th anniversary celebration. We hope it was as informative and entertaining for you as it was for us. It’s always invigorating to spend time with folks who share common customs and culture, to delve into discussions of industry advances and constraints while meeting new friends and catching up with old ones. Thanks to each and every one of you, and those who preceded us, our Association is on solid footing after a century of hard work and stands ready to continue tackling the challenges that lie ahead.
I recently had the opportunity to attend a federal court hearing in Albuquerque regarding claims against the Carson National Forest and its former district ranger by the Jarita Mesa and Alamosa allotment owners. The plaintiffs brought suit against the United States Forest Service (USFS) to address arbitrary reductions in animal unit months (AUM’s) and season of use restrictions that were contrary to their annual operating instructions. It appears that there was retaliatory animosity due to the allotment owners criticism of the Forest Service for not actively managing the feral horse population that led to a significant reduction in their grazing AUM’s and many tens of thousands of dollars in economic losses to the families with deep historic ties to the land. Unfortunately, there is a presumption in law that an agency always makes the appropriate decision, and federal employees enjoy immunity from prosecution in most instances.
Meanwhile, the plaintiffs are asking for limited discovery in the case, which includes the deposition of the former district ranger. The USFS is asking that the lawsuit be dismissed, stating that the impact of large numbers of feral horses on forage availability is a “red herring”.
The US Fish & Wildlife Service (FWS) recently released its final Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) seeking the implementation of proposed revisions to the non-essential experimental population of the Mexican Wolf. In a manner emblematic of other federal agencies in recent years the FWS proposed action and preferred alternative was not contemplated during the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) process, and is only coming to the forefront now, without any public participation in its development, a concern that was raised by NMCGA and 14 other entities back in September. The preferred alternative calls for a population objective of 300-325 wolves in a greatly expanded Mexican Wolf Experimental Population Area which would allow wolves to remain in the millions of acres that encompass both Arizona and New Mexico below Interstate 40.
While the FWS states that its proposed action “provides more mechanisms to minimize and mitigate the impacts of our action on local communities, including ranching and livestock production entities . . .” we all know that there will continue to be significant adverse economic impacts to livestock production in New Mexico and Arizona, because the notion that livestock and wolves can “exist in harmony” is nothing more than a fairytale.
Please take the time to comment on this extremely important issue by December 27. Your comments can be submitted electronically at www.regulations.gov , Docket No. FWS-R2-ES-2013-0056. While it’s inappropriate for the comment period to take place during the holidays, and the process isn’t NEPA compliant, it’s unlikely that an extension will be granted to the comment period given that the FWS is under court order to deliver a Record of Decision on or before January 12 of 2015.
In closing, it has been interesting to see a radical environmental group in the Northwest crying foul on being sued for trespass on private property. They claim that if the ranchers win the lawsuit it could be financially devastating to their interests. It’s also humorous that the federal government, in a case out of Utah, is admitting that the Endangered Species Act “restricts and prevents otherwise normal and legal forms of land and resources use, such as agriculture and construction”. Maybe there’s hope after all to prove that our “. . . private property rights are being taken for public use, without just compensation.”