Wilderness proposal brings back bad memories
By Dolly June Moore Young/For the Sun-News
It is time for me to say something about the Doña Ana wilderness proposal. I am a child of the '30s and '40s and I am a child of a family displaced for what was then thought to be the higher and better use of Doña Ana County land. My father, William E. Moore, had a little filling station and mining properties on the east side of the Organs and we were forced from those lands by the Army in 1951.
My family existed on those properties along with a herd of goats and a flock of turkeys. We had not been the original settlers. That had been my grandfather, William S. Moore, who had settled in the area prior to 1900. Our home was the sanctuary that a child could relate to as being "home." Years had made us part of the land. We were part of that community of scattered ranchers and miners. We all were "home."
When we were forced from the land, my memories of reactions are mixed. I think people of my parents' generation were less likely to express emotion. They were too close to earlier times when hardship was not just a memory. It was part of life itself. We left. We were not paid outright for the lands and possessions. As I remember, my father was paid an ongoing payment of $200 per year, and then it stopped. I don't remember when it stopped. I know little about the details because those details were not shared with us. My father, like most fathers of that era, was tight lipped. At the time the final events occurred I had left home to begin my own life. My folks eventually settled just north of Organ. I know it wasn't easy. They struggled. They existed on my mother's Gold Star Mother certificate payment from the loss of my older brother in the war and from odd jobs that my dad was able to get. They had no recourse. The government made the decision for them.
Today, the United States is again contemplating what is best for more Doña Ana lands. There are representatives among us who are doing the work that Congress will eventually decide upon, much like what was done when my family was moved off our land and from our home. The greater good is being contemplated again.
I have empathy for the ranchers who face this. From my own experience, it is a tragic occurrence of events that are not fully manifested for years, and, maybe never. What a tragedy the removal of people off the face of the Tularosa Basin was. Yes, there have been jobs that were created, but there is a loss that can never be quantified or expressed. It is every bit as egregious as anything any body of people has faced in the history of this country. There is a corollary, though. I retired from NMSU some years ago. I worked in the Animal Science Department, and I have thought about what was occurring in the Gila during the years of my professional life. We had kids in our department from that area and we generally were aware of the course of events of the ranchers and the wilderness. In contemplating my history and that of the Gila, I think there are stunning similarities. In both cases, the government unilaterally made lasting decisions that benefited the government and or those who had the authority or influence within or outside of the government to affect those decisions. There was never a single decision that was made that benefited an individual no matter what argument was made. He was minimized or made villainous.
If you rush forward in dealing with this Doña Ana wilderness issue with an agenda that is based on who is contributing to you, you will join a long list of your predecessors who forgot why they were elected. It is easy to join the throng and appear to do something special. It is harder to find the right answer that ". . . prevents misconstruction and abuse of its (your) powers ... (and) insure the beneficent ends of its (the Constitution's) institution; ..." Our families who were forced off those lands could never have prevailed in a popular vote of the decision concerning our demise. The people of the Gila couldn't either ... and the ranchers who face this can't either, but not in a single case was it, nor will it be, right or just. Do history a favor. Look at the draft legislation to make human existence part of the land designation. It would be a momentous occasion to consider ordinary citizens in a government action.
Dolly June Moore Young is a graduate of Las Cruces Union High School who has lived in Doña Ana County for most of her life.