Friday, April 4, 2008

New Mexico Federal Lands News

By Mike Casabonne

Congress has passed an extension to the current Farm Bill to allow more time for the House to come to agreement with the Administration on ag spending levels. Inaction on farm bill legislation is usually cause for great consternation in Midwestern farm states because commodity support programs for corn, wheat and soybeans are extremely important to their states’ economies. This year there is not as much concern because these three commodities are at record high prices. Agricultural publications all talk about record farm income, the improved financial health of the ag sector of the economy and what great times these are for farmers.

The livestock industry has had a pretty long run of good prices too but not like feed grains. Anyone who has had to buy feed this winter knows what grain prices have done to the cost of production of range livestock. Feed and fuel costs have skyrocketed over the last several months adding to increased operating expenses. These cost increases will also take a toll on feeder livestock prices and soak up a big part of the financial gains ranchers hoped to make from this period of good prices.

A major reason for this is the increased political influence of the global warming nuts even as they lose ground in the scientific community. Congress passed an energy bill that has dramatically increased the amount of feed grains that go to biofuel production especially corn for ethanol. Legislators could point to global warming and reducing greenhouse gas emissions as reasons for their misguided votes.

Eventually the global warming hoax will be debunked. Many scientists see evidence that the warming cycle is already over and we are entering a period of global cooling. This winter has been the coldest since 2001. Many if not most climate scientists never believed global temperature changes are significantly influenced by human activity anyway.

Even the environmentalist whacko’s now realize that turning the world’s feedgrains into ethanol is not good for anyone except Midwestern farmers and their congressional delegations. Some say there is a worldwide food crisis coming that will make the energy crisis seem insignificant. But the political and bureaucratic inertia behind the movement may take awhile to slow down. Meanwhile Al Gore admires his Nobel Prize on the mantle in his lavish home that uses 20 times more energy than yours or mine.

Northern wolves were slated for delisting the end of March. The states involved have wolf management plans in place. They mostly treat wolves as predator big game species and will allow hunting as with bears and cougars. The wolf lovers have promised to sue to keep the states from managing wolves. Meanwhile, livestock predations are on the rise. Hunters and outfitters complain that the increasing wolves are decimating moose, deer and elk populations.

Mexican wolves continue causing problems for western NM ranchers. A new documentary film has been released that chronicles the damage done to rural residents by the wolf program. DVD copies of “Undue Burden” may be purchased through a link on the Wolf Crossing website

The New Mexico Department of Game and Fish has been a big part of the problem with the wolf program. The Game Department has opposed dealing with problem wolves and has been responsible for some of the conflict between the program and local residents. Game Department Director Bruce Thompson was recently convicted of killing a deer on private land without permission and fined $500 and placed on 182 days of probation. Although anyone can make a mistake, which is what Director Thompson says happened, this is another example of the kind of leadership the Department has.

The National Landscape Conservation Act, HR 2016, has been introduced in the House by Representative Grijalva from Arizona. This piece of legislation would add special protection status to many places across the west. Areas to be included in the system include National Monuments, National Conservation Areas, Wilderness Study Areas, National Scenic Trails, National Wild and Scenic Rivers, and any part of the National Wilderness Preservation System. New Mexico has several places that fit in these categories totaling almost 1.5 million acres.

This concept was proposed by the administration. Senator Bingaman is the original sponsor for the Senate version. Tom Udall and Heather Wilson are both cosponsors of the House bill. In Committee mark-up Steve Pearce offered amendments to protect grazing rights and other private property rights held by individuals in these areas. His amendments were voted down. This legislation will give the BLM the regulatory tools it needs to take a Wilderness Study Area for example and make its use as restrictive as a National Park. No more multiple use for these areas. If you don’t believe the BLM needs this kind of authority, let your legislators know.

One of the results of the mismanagement of forest lands has been increasingly severe fire seasons across the west. The effects have also been magnified by drought and the increased number of homes and other structures in and around forested land. Fire fighting costs are out of control and now take almost half the FS budget. Congressional Democrats want to establish a new fund outside the FS budget to handle catastrophic fire costs. Last year the FS and BLM overspent their fire budgets by almost $1 billion.

Montana fire officials want the FS to pay even more. They say that FS has refused to fight some fires because of cost or danger and left local departments to protect homes and other structures on some fires. They want the FS to pay for fires that are the result of its mismanagement. Mark Rey, USDA Undersecretary thinks that the states supporting roadless areas that make it harder to fight fires should pay the increased cost of firefighting in roadless forests. It would be so much easier and more cost-effective to manage forests so we don’t have so many of these catastrophic fires.

Frank Dubois has started a blog for the New Mexico Federal Lands Council. The blog has links to articles and information of interest to federal land ranchers. There are links to Forest Service and BLM manuals and handbooks that can be valuable to ranchers who need to know their rights and the limits on the authority of federal land managers in grazing decisions. The website is a great resource for federal land ranchers with a wealth of information that will make them better able to deal with federal land agencies as well as keep up with news that affects their business. The web address is Frank also maintains The Westerner blog that tracks a wider range of issues that is also a great source of information. That address is

New Mexico’s weather has been split north to south this year. Northern NM has had heavier than normal snowpack but Southern NM is slipping back into drought. The current La Nina event is predicted to last through the summer and into the fall. Even during abnormally dry periods there can be occasional good rains. We can pray that will be the case. Until next time may God bless us all.

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