Sunday, January 4, 2009

Isn't it time to discuss options other than wilderness areas?

Alamogordo Daily News

Why hasn't the Daily News ever found room to describe outgoing Congressman Steve Pearce's bill, H.R. 6300?

In fact, I wonder how many people who are supporting the establishment of wilderness areas in Doña Ana County have actually obtained a copy of the bill and read it.

The "Election alters wilderness fight outlook" article written by Sun-News reporter Diana Alba in the Dec. 24 ADN states that, "People for Preserving Our Western Heritage" (PPOWH) was mainly supported by a group of Doña Ana County ranchers and off road vehicle users.

However, PPOWH drafted H.R. 6300 and stated in a three-page brochure that the proposed bill has been endorsed by 14 professional people that include New Mexico's Secretary of Agriculture, two retired NMSU presidents, a retired NMSU dean of the College of Agriculture, a retired Deputy Chief of the U.S. Forest Service and 700 businesses and organizations from Doña Ana County and elsewhere.

According to the article, the local director of the New Mexico Wilderness Alliance stated that opponents to wilderness areas haven't shown a shred of flexibility. Yet, H.R. 6300 is an exceptional model of flexibility and conciliation written by a group of ranchers who are willing to sit down with all the parties who are interested in preserving Doña Ana County open range land and mountains.

Why can't the Sun News and ADN end their obvious partiality toward wilderness lovers and report objectively on the alternative ways that have been introduced to safeguard open public land without locking it up in wilderness areas? Quoting a PPOWH brochure:

"The 'Doña Ana County Planned Growth, Open Space and Rangeland Preservation Act' has quickly earned significant community support. Individuals, businesses, and organizations have been very receptive to this balanced approach to preserving and protecting our federal lands."

H.R. 6300 shouldn't be allowed to die in the House Committees of Natural Resources because its sensible approach proves that to save open land doesn't mean it has been classified as wilderness which, in many instances throughout the western United States, has seriously disrupted or destroyed ranching peoples' livelihoods.

The bill gives protection to 301,418 acres of public federal lands in Doña Ana County by withdrawing them from sale and mining activities.

I fail to understand why wilderness advocates are distrusted over the preservation areas established in the bill being multiple use when the bill also states that the Department of the Interior would be required to establish land management rules for safeguarding environmentally sensitive areas, cultural sites and other sites with unique geology and paleontology.

Otero County residents should study H.R. 6300 and decide if we need similar legislation in the near future because wilderness advocates are displaying a marked interest in Otero Mesa.

Charles N. Dennett, Alamogordo

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