Monday, November 30, 2009

Aerial-gunning foes ask Obama to ban practice

A wildlife advocacy group Friday asked President Barack Obama to end aerial gunning of coyotes and other predators, citing an Idaho incident where a shotgun-wielding parachutist illegally fired on a wolf.

New Mexico-based WildEarth Guardians' 39-page petition also urges Obama to banish spring-loaded cyanide devices and other predator poisoning methods from public lands, calling them dangerous and indiscriminate.

In June, an eastern Idaho sheep rancher fired on a wolf while piloting a powered parachute above a 160-acre sheep pen. It's unclear if the animal was hit. Wolves in Idaho are considered big game, not predators, so shooting them from the sky is illegal even with a state-issued airborne predator control permit that covers animals such as coyotes.

No charges were filed, but WildEarth Guardians said the Idaho case shows federal agencies have lost control of aerial shooting. The group also contends airborne predator control programs run by the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Wildlife Services division cost taxpayers unnecessary millions and lead to accidents that have killed 38 people since 1973.

"We call upon the Obama administration to protect our native carnivores," said Wendy Keefover-Ring, a spokeswoman for WildEarth Guardians in Boulder, Colo.

In January, the federal Environmental Protection Agency refused a similar demand from WildEarth Guardians and others to ban cyanide for predator control, calling its arguments "unpersuasive."

Ranching interests including the American Sheep Industry Association say using aircraft and poison to kill coyotes are important tools to combat $125 million in annual losses from predators to the sheep, goat and cattle industry. Peter Orwick, the group's director in Englewood, Colo., said WildEarth Guardians has a radical animal-rights agenda that threatens the livelihood of ranching families like his own.

"If they weren't able to use airplanes, they would not be in the livestock business," Orwick said. WildEarth Guardians "wants absolutely no control tools made available, from the federal perspective."

And efforts to end aerial hunting aren't new, either: The Humane Society of the United States has tried for decades to stop the practice. In 2005, however, Idaho officials convinced the Federal Aviation Administration to expand policies to allow licensed ultralight aircraft pilots to shoot predators from aloft.

Aerial gunning even rose to the level of presidential politics in 2008, when then-Alaska governor and vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin unapologetically backed her state's airborne wolf hunts.

USDA Wildlife Services officials didn't immediately respond to e-mail and telephone requests for comment. The division, with a budget of about $120 million, reported killing some 4.9 million animals in 2008 in efforts to control predators and invasive species.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Wilderness bill opponents map out alternative plan

LAS CRUCES - A group of opponents to a federal wilderness bill for Doña Ana County gathered Tuesday to outline its alternative to the proposal and ask New Mexico's senators to hold a field hearing locally about the matter.

The group, including ranchers, off-road vehicle users, the Greater Las Cruces Chamber of Commerce and the Elephant Butte Irrigation District, in a letter to the senators have asked that several regions be removed from consideration for wilderness and instead granted other less-restrictive designations.

Under the group's proposal, developed by a Chamber of Commerce panel, the following areas now proposed for wilderness would become national conservation areas:

• Potrillo Mountains Wilderness - 143,450 acres

• Aden Lava Flow Wilderness - 27,650 acres

• Cinder Cone Wilderness - 16,950 acres

• Whitehorn Wilderness - 9,600 acres

The areas are clustered in southwestern Do-a Ana County, near the international border. Frank DuBois, a former state agriculture secretary who has opposed the wilderness legislation, said the group is asking for the change to keep from hindering officers who are enforcing immigration laws.

Wilderness is the most-restrictive land designation granted by Congress. It prevents mechanized travel in most cases. National
conservation areas are a designation in which the land-use parameters are tailored to match each region.

Also, a 13,900-acre wilderness region proposed for Broad Canyon, south of Hatch, would be removed from consideration, under the opposition group's plan.

"The chamber found this area to be too important for utility and energy corridors, flood control and other economic growth and public safety factors to have access restrictions legislatively imposed," said DuBois at a news conference.

Jude McCartin, spokeswoman for U.S. Sen. Jeff Bingaman, D-N.M., reiterated that the senator in developing the legislation, S. 1689, attempted to accommodate concerns of stakeholders. She pointed to several revisions that were made to an earlier wilderness proposal that had been circulating in the community. One of those revisions was the removal of 16,000 acres that had previously been slated to become wilderness along the border, to better accommodate law enforcement.

Opponents have said the ban against mechanized travel would keep border agents from adequately patrolling the area. Supporters of the wilderness legislation, however, have said they don't believe that would be the case, mostly because of a cooperative agreement between federal agencies that allows federal agents to access the land, under certain conditions.

But Gene Wood of Las Cruces, a retired chief patrol agent with the Border Patrol, contended Tuesday that the agreement "doesn't work at all" because it requires that agents be "in hot pursuit" of illegal activity. He also said the proposed buffer zone won't do much good.

"When would that ever happen in the Potrillos?" said. "If you can't go there and see them, how would you chase them?"

Wood said a the international border fence has helped to reduce cross-border traffic, but it also has pushed it to wildlands.

A group in favor the Senate bill continued to express its backing for the measure.

County Commissioner Scott Krahling in a statement said there's a "high level" of support in the community.

"This legislation has been thoroughly thought through at the local level, and many compromises have been made to accommodate all involved," he said. "Wilderness and national conservation areas will protect many of our most important local public lands, and it will also be good for our economy."

In addition to other modifications, DuBois said the group is asking that access to flood control structures a proposed Organ Mountain National Conservation Area remain open and that language changes to protect grazing in the national conservation areas also be adopted.

John Hummer, Greater Las Cruces Chamber of Commerce president, who signed the letter, said the group isn't opposed to protecting land, but doesn't believe the wilderness designation is necessary in all cases. He said more public debate is needed on the measure, why the group is requesting a Senate field hearing be held in the county.

The group opposed to wilderness released a version of its letter before the news conference that included the list of people who'd sign. But supporters of the wilderness bill were quick to point out that two of the people listed - Gilbert C. Apodaca, president of the Hispano Chamber of Commerce and Margie Huerta, president of Do-a Ana Community College - were actually in favor of S. 1689 as it stands.

In a statement, Apodaca described himself as a "proud and enthusiastic supporter" of the current version of the bill. Huerta, too, said she backs the legislation.

DuBois said the names were included because of a misunderstanding.

DuBois said the group isn't opposed to three of the proposed wilderness areas: the Organ Mountains Wilderness, Sierra de las Uvas Wilderness and Robledo Mountains Wilderness.

Bingaman and U.S. Sen. Tom Udall, D-N.M. introduced the Organ Mountains - Desert Peaks Wilderness Act into Congress in September. The bill would create 259,000 acres of wilderness and 100,850 acres of national conservation area in Do-a Ana County.

A debate about wilderness in the county has been ongoing since December 2005, after an initial proposal by former U.S. Sen. Pete Domenici, R-N.M., came to light.

Diana M. Alba can be reached at; (575) 541-5443.

By the numbers

Proposed land protection for Do-a Ana County under the proposed Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks Wilderness Act (S. 1689)


• Organ Mountains Wilderness - 19,400 acres

• Aden Lava Flow Wilderness - 27,650 acres

• Potrillo Mountains Wilderness - 143,450 acres

• Cinder Cone Wilderness - 16,950 acres

• Whitehorn Wilderness - 9,600 acres

• Robledo Mountains Wilderness - 17,000 acres

• Broad Canyon Wilderness - 13,900 acres

• Sierra de las Uvas Wilderness - 11,100 acres

• Organ Mountains National Conservation Area - 67,250 acres

• Desert Peaks National Conservation Area - 33,600 acres

• Wilderness study released from temporary wilderness - 16,350 acres

Source: U.S. Sen. Jeff Bingaman, D-N.M.


The following people signed a letter asking for changes to a federal wilderness bill under consideration in Congress:

• Gerald Thomas, New Mexico State University, president emeritus

• Richard Johnson, U.S. Forest Service, ret.

• State Rep. Andy Nu-ez, D-Hatch

• Judd Nordyke, mayor of Hatch

• John Hummer, chairman of the Greater Las Cruces Chamber of Commerce

• John Hadley, Building Industry Association of Southern New Mexico

• Gary Esslinger, Elephant Butte Irrigation District

• John Allen, Do-a Ana County Flood Commissioner

• Gene Wood, National Association of Former Border Patrol Officers

• Ralph Ramos, Mesilla Valley Sportsmen's Alliance

• Joe Delk, Do-a Ana Soil and Water Conservation District

• Jerry Arp, Las Cruces Four Wheel Drive Club

• Juan Colquitt, Fort Selden Water Co.

• Marcia Nordyke, Hatch Chamber of Commerce

• Tom Hutchison, Greater Las Cruces Chamber of Commerce Issues panel chairman

• Jerry Schickedanz, chairman of People For Preserving Our Western Heritage

• Ed Provencio, South Valley Small Farmers Cooperative

• Sherry Blake, Chaparral Agriculture and Livestock Association

Source: People for Preserving Our Western Heritage

Friday, November 20, 2009

Should private cattle graze on public lands?

It's a battle that has ranchers pitted against environmentalists. An ongoing legal dispute over grazing practices in the Malheur National Forest has many Eastern Oregon ranchers worried about their livelihoods and the future of their ranches. Environmentalists are concerned grazing on certain parts of the public forest is degrading habitat for threatened fish.

On Wednesday, ranchers from Central Oregon showed their support for their eastern counterparts at the Central Oregon Livestock Auction yard in Madras.

One-by-one, as cattle entered the auction floor, their weight was registered and the announcer started the bidding.

But once the animal was sold, the buyer immediately signaled he was returning the animal.

And so, the bidding started again on the same animal. It was an effort to raise money for the nearly $450,000 in legal fees the group known as Five Rivers Grazing Defense has incurred while trying to hold on to grazing permits on forestland.

Approximately 80 animals were donated for the fundraiser, which collected about $46,000 for the group.

The auction, which included the sale of other cattle, not just those in the fundraiser, started at 9 a.m. and was scheduled to last until about 10 p.m.

Land use lawsuit

The dispute was sparked by a lawsuit filed by the Bend-based Oregon Natural Desert Association against the U.S. Forest Service. ONDA would like to see the Forest Service remove grazing in certain areas along Forest Service land along the John Day River, an area important for steelhead habitat.

The ranchers found out the only way to have a voice in the debate was to file a lawsuit. So, they are also suing the Forest Service, whose representatives did not return calls for comment.

Steelhead are listed as threatened under the federal Endangered Species Act.

Brent Fenty, the executive director of ONDA, said grazing ruins riparian areas, kills cover that shades streams and keeps the water temperatures low, which fish need to survive.

“For us, it's straightforward,” Fenty said. “Our expectation in the short term is we want the U.S. Forest Service, charged with managing grazing, to comply with their own laws and regulations to protect stream health and native fish. In the long term, we hope to protect the most important areas of fish habitat.”

Fenty was quick to point out that he doesn't believe this is a precedent-setting lawsuit.

“I've heard other folks say this is a huge precedent for throughout the West,” he said. “This lawsuit hinges on specific data collected on the ground about conditions on specific allotments. And the Forest Service wasn't enforcing their own rules and regulations. It's less a question of public lands grazing across the West and more specific conditions on these allotments and whether the Forest Service is enforcing (management) to allow threatened steelhead and bulltrout populations to recover.”

Ranchers worry

But Trent Stewart, co-owner of the Central Oregon Livestock Auction in Madras, disagreed with Fenty.

That's why he agreed to host the fundraiser and donate all proceeds to the Five Rivers Grazing Defense fund. He said Central Oregon ranchers are also dependent on public lands, such as in the Ochoco National Forest, for survival.

“If they get started, it's not just going to happen there. Here in the West, we're dependent on public ground for grazing,” he said.

Jack and Katie Johns' Fox Valley ranch has been in their family for more than 100 years. They depend on the grass in the Malheur National Forest every year to feed their cattle. Without it, they would have to cut their cattle operation in half, and they worry about what would happen in the future to their family ranch.

Ken Holliday is another Five Rivers Grazing Defense rancher in Grant County.

“This isn't just going after grazing permits,” he said. “This is going after our ranches. ... It's not just public grazing but our livelihood. It's going after the next generations, our kids, our son. If (we lose), it's a done deal.”

Holliday said he believes ranchers are good stewards of the land and it's in their benefit to do so.

Historically, grazing has been used as a tool to manage forestland, he said. It helps prevent forest fires and helps create habitat for wildlife.

Federal study

Fenty doesn't disagree the lawsuit could make management tougher for ranchers.

“It goes back to this underlying question of what is the primary and best use of our public lands,” he said. “And I think for well over a century, grazing has been the priority use for public lands in the West. And I think changing social values recognizing preserving and restoring healthy fish populations is something we value our public lands for. ... I would hate to ... presume that just because it's historically been a priority, we assume it's a priority use in the future.”

Fenty said the National Marine Fisheries Service found steelhead populations in the middle, south and upper forks of the John Day were not viable and identified grazing as degrading the water quality.

The ranchers pointed to the large horse and elk populations and say they are responsible for trampling the area more than domestic cattle.

Elizabeth Howard, the Portland-based lawyer representing the ranchers, said the methodology used by the National Marine Fisheries Service to measure bank damage is erroneous.

“They go out and look for hoof prints along a certain area of stream,” she said.

“The problem is there is no correlation of hoof prints along the stream and impact to steelhead. ... They have never connected the dots,” she said.

Lauren Dake can be reached at 541-419-8074 or at

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Idaho to pay $50K to settle grazing lease lawsuit

Idaho agreed Tuesday to pay $50,000 and pledged to follow anti-discrimination rules to settle a federal lawsuit against state officials who awarded grazing leases to ranchers, not the environmentalist who had offered more money.

The Idaho Board of Land has also committed to revising its rules to allow conservation groups to lease state endowment trust lands, a big change after years of fierce litigation. The board's five members are the governor, state controller, secretary of state, attorney general and superintendent of public instruction.

In 2006, Washington state businessman and environmentalist Gordon Younger was the high bidder on seven Idaho grazing leases, but lost when the Board of Land with then-Gov. Jim Risch gave the leases to livestock owners. Younger, who planned to manage the lands to restore what he called "their degraded streams and wildlife habitats," sued in U.S. District Court on grounds he was the victim of discrimination.

Laird Lucas, attorney for Younger's Lazy Y Ranch Ltd., said Tuesday he's optimistic this settlement and the Board of Land's revised leasing rules represent a departure from the past, when conservation groups were bullied out of winning state grazing leases and left no other option than to sue.

"If someone is willing to put up money for conservation on state lands, we want them to be treated fairly," Lucas said. "This is the first time we've achieved reform in how state lands are managed."

The state's new leasing rules, whose changes address more issues than just this lease dispute, await final approval in the 2010 Legislature.

There, they could still face opposition from livestock-industry advocates.

If the rules are rejected, Tuesday's settlement allows Younger to refile his claims against Idaho.

But "if legislative ratification does occur, Lazy Y waives, forfeits and otherwise relinquishes any and all right to refile such claims," according to the pact, which also requires Board of Land members to "recognize their obligation to apply applicable statutes and rules consistent with federal or state equal protection requirements."

The Idaho Constitution demands Board of Land members carefully preserve state endowment trust lands, to secure the maximum long-term financial return to benefit public schools.

Ranchers have contended their industry's impact on local economies should also be taken into account, but that argument has failed to persuade judges: Western Watersheds Project, an environmental group to which Younger is a contributor, in 1999 won unanimous Idaho Supreme Court decisions rejecting grazing-lease preferences for ranchers.

Clive Strong, a deputy attorney general and natural resource law specialist, said Idaho's new leasing rules will help create a level playing field for all parties interested in securing a lease — and help the state avoid costly lawsuits.

"The Land Board recognized the current process was not working and was leading the way to litigation," Strong said. "It was determined to find a better process."

According to Tuesday's settlement, state officials didn't acknowledge wrongdoing, but will pay $50,000 to cover the Lazy Y's litigation fees. Lazy Y, meanwhile, held open the possibility of bidding for the 10-year leases again when they become available.

Jon Hanian, a spokesman for Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter, and David Hensley, Otter's staff lawyer, didn't immediately return phone calls seeking comment.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Environmental laws put gaps in Mexico border security

In the battle on the U.S.-Mexico border, the fight against illegal immigration often loses out to environmental laws that have blocked construction of parts of the "virtual fence" and that threaten to create places where agents can't easily track illegal immigrants.

Documents obtained by Rep. Rob Bishop and shared with The Washington Times show National Park Service staffers have tried to stop the U.S. Border Patrol from placing some towers associated with the virtual fence, known as the Secure Border Initiative or SBInet, on wilderness lands in parks along the border.

In a remarkably candid letter to members of Congress, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said her department could have to delay pursuits of illegal immigrants while waiting for horses to be brought in so agents don't trample protected lands, and warns that illegal immigrants will increasingly make use of remote, protected areas to avoid being caught.

The documents also show the Interior Department has charged the Homeland Security Department $10 million over the past two years as a "mitigation" penalty to pay for damage to public lands that agencies say has been caused by Border Patrol agents chasing illegal immigrants.

"I want this resolved so border security has the precedence down there. If wilderness designation gets in the way of a secure southern border, I want the designation changed," said Mr. Bishop, Utah Republican, who requested the documents. "If it means you lose a couple of acres of wilderness, I don't think God will blame us at the judgment bar for doing that."

The conflict between the environment and border security has raged for the past decade as better enforcement in urban areas has pushed the flow of illegal immigrants into Arizona and straight into some of the nation's most remote and fragile desert.

A major problem is wilderness - lands deemed so pristine that they should be maintained in that condition, free of man-made structures.

Wilderness is governed under a 1964 law that imposed strict rules that tie Border Patrol agents' hands, and there is a lot of that land along the border. According to the Congressional Research Service, California has 1.8 million acres of wilderness within 100 miles of the border, and Arizona has 2.5 million acres. New Mexico and Texas have smaller plots.

According to e-mails obtained by Mr. Bishop, Park Service officials at Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument and at the Denver office that oversees the park said they will not allow the Border Patrol to place electronic surveillance towers on parts of the park that are designated wilderness.

In one 2008 e-mail, officials tell the Homeland Security Department to "pursue alternative tower locations." In another 2008 memo, the superintendent of Organ Pipe says Park Service officials could reject towers even beyond wilderness areas if they deem the effects would spill over into wilderness.

Organ Pipe has 32 miles of the U.S.-Mexico border on its land, and 95 percent of the park is designated wilderness. Officials have shut down much of the western side of the giant park, saying the threat of encounters with illegal immigrants and drug smugglers makes that land not safe enough for visitors.

Homeland Security considers SBInet critical to gaining control of the border. The concept is to mix manpower, technology and infrastructure to form the "virtual fence" that government planners say can curtail illegal immigration and drug smuggling.

The project is way behind its original schedule, having slipped from a 2009 deadline all the way back to 2016. The Government Accountability Office, in a report released in September, blamed both testing flaws and environmental rules for holding up the system.

A spokesman for the National Park Service Denver office, which oversees Arizona, didn't return calls for comment.

But Jane Lyder, deputy assistant secretary for Fish and Wildlife and Parks at the Interior Department, said her agency tries to cooperate, though its mission does conflict with that of the Homeland Security Department.

"A proposal to build permanent structures within a wilderness area violates the Wilderness Act. The Park Service and DOI worked with Border Patrol to find places with Organ Pipe National Monument that were not part of the designated wilderness, where the towers could be placed," she said.

She said acceptable alternate locations have been found.

A draft environmental assessment of the new sites released in September lists conditions ranging from common sense - such as designing roads that limit the impact on lesser long-nosed bats and Sonoran pronghorn, both endangered species - to the more unusual.

Towers cannot be constructed if Sonoran pronghorn are within two miles of the site, and the pronghorn's departure cannot be hastened by human interaction. Also, feed for patrol horses must be weed-free to prevent the horses from spreading nonnative seeds in their excrement.

Ms. Lyder also said she has found the Border Patrol willing to work with Interior on protecting endangered species, and said land managers recognize that the Border Patrol's mission also benefits public lands.

She said a 2006 memorandum of understanding specifically allows Border Patrol to go off-road, even in wilderness, in emergency cases that involve a threat to national security or to someone's safety.

After some initial friction, the Homeland Security and Interior departments did find agreement on the physical border fence, much of which stretches across public lands in Arizona. A letter from U.S. Customs and Border Protection's acting commissioner earlier this year praises Interior for working with border security officials to get the fencing done.

Still, Ms. Napolitano's letter to Congress, which was sent last month in answer to a series of questions, indicates that problems persist.

She said Border Patrol makes every effort to live up to the 2006 memorandum but that "it may be inadvisable for officer safety to wait for the arrival of horses for pursuit purposes, or to attempt to apprehend smuggling vehicles within wilderness with a less capable form of transportation."

She also said some public-lands managers are using a section of the Endangered Species Act to demand information about Border Patrol activities, which Ms. Napolitano said "risks jeopardizing sensitive operational information."

Ms. Napolitano also said that cracking down on illegal immigration actually helps the environment since the flow of millions of illegal crossers over the past decade has ruined some once-pristine lands with piles of trash, vehicle tracks and contaminated water.

Asked about the letter, Homeland Security spokesman Matt Chandler said the department wants to work with the Interior Department and the U.S. Forest Service, which is part of the Agriculture Department.

"We acknowledge that balancing the requirements of border enforcement and land preservation can at times present challenges, but we are committed to collaboration with Interior and the USFS to find workable solutions on special status," he said. "[Homeland Security's] close working relationship with Interior and USFS allows DHS to fulfill its enforcement responsibilities while respecting and enhancing the environment."

Mr. Bishop and Sen. Tom Coburn, Oklahoma Republican, tried to free up the Border Patrol earlier this year, with each managing to pass amendments on different bills that gave the Border Patrol more leeway to circumvent environmental rules if border security required it.

The Senate passed its amendment by unanimous consent as part of a spending bill, while the House voted 259-167 to add it to a lands bill. But House and Senate Democratic negotiators watered down Mr. Coburn's amendment when they met to hammer out a final version of the spending bill.

According to a Congressional Research Service report, the new wording means that environmental laws can't block construction of the pedestrian fence on the border but still can block other activities, including regular Border Patrol operations and building the virtual fence of electronic surveillance.

"What we have done in this bill is prioritize the environment over the violation of our borders," Mr. Coburn said in opposing the bill when it came through the Senate.

But Democrats defended the move on the House floor, saying the environmental laws must be obeyed.

"We were concerned that if it weren't focused on the fence area, it could overturn the Archaeological Resources Protection Act, the Native American Graves Repatriation Act, the American Indian Religious Freedom Act, the Endangered Species Act, NEPA and many other laws," said Rep. Norm Dicks, Washington Democrat. "We tried to focus this like a rifle shot."

Mr. Bishop says he has had trouble getting accurate responses to his requests. For example, he asked Interior for the total amount of money the department had received from Homeland Security for mitigation of the effects of border enforcement, such as raking out roads or replanting plants.

Interior provided him with one figure - $811,000 since 2006, which it said had gone specifically to rehabilitate territory for the endangered Sonoran pronghorn. But Homeland Security says it has paid out $9,823,813 since September 2007 alone, including $200,000 over the course of 16 months to have a single Interior Department employee on site to provide "subject matter expertise."

"The taxpayer is getting ripped off, that's pretty clear," Mr. Bishop said.

Ms. Lyder said the majority of the money went to a system being built to help the Border Patrol evaluate what threatened and endangered species might be affected by proposed actions.

As for specific mitigation money, such as the $811,000 paid to the Fish and Wildlife Service for the pronghorn, she said that was normal.

"It would not be unusual for Border Patrol to provide FWS with funding to mitigate its effects on an endangered species, such as the pronghorn, particularly if their activities would be such that the habitat disturbed is no longer suitable, and replacement habitat had to be acquired," she said.

Monday, November 2, 2009


Albuquerque, NM, October 26, 2009—The Forest Service is seeking people to serve on two new Resource Advisory Committees in New Mexico under provisions of Title II of the Secure Rural Schools Act of 2008. Nominations are due to the appropriate RAC Coordinator by November 16,2009.

Fourteen counties in New Mexico elected to receive over $1.56 million in 2009 and continued amounts for the next three years to be used on a variety of projects on national forests.

The legislation requires the Forest Service, working with the counties, to establish Resource Advisory Committees (RAC) made up of defined, diverse, 15-member RACs with a formal Charter. The Charter establishing the RACs will soon be approved by the Secretary of Agriculture, and the Forest Service is now recruiting RAC members.

RAC nominees will be forwarded to the Secretary who appoints members to a four-year term following background checks. The RACs convene, propose and review project proposals and make recommendations to the local Forest Service Designated Federal Official (DFO) on how funds should be spent.

The northern counties agreed to a Northern New Mexico RAC and the southern counties agreed to a Southern New Mexico RAC. Those interested in serving on a RAC are encouraged to make direct contact with:

Northern New Mexico Resource Advisory Committee advising the Carson,
Cibola, and Santa Fe National Forests in Cibola, McKinley, Mora, Rio
Arriba, Sandoval, San Miguel, Taos, and Torrance Counties.
Ignacio Peralta, Coordinator, 575-758-6344
Ruben Montes, Coordinator, 505-438-5356,
Diana M Trujillo, DFO, 575-536-2250,

Southern New Mexico Resource Advisory Committee advising the
Apache-Sitgreaves, Cibola, Gila, and Lincoln National Forests in Catron,
Grant, Lincoln, Otero, Sierra, and Socorro Counties.
Patti Turpin, Coordinator, 575-434-7230,
Al Koss, DFO, 575-682-2551,

Members of a RAC must reside within the State in which the committee has jurisdiction and, to extent possible, ensure local representation in each category. RAC members serve without pay but may elect to be reimbursed for travel expenses.

The following summarizes the interests to be represented on each RAC within three categories:

Category A, five persons who represent:
1. organized labor or non-timber forest product harvester groups;
2. developed outdoor recreation, off highway vehicle users, or
commercial recreation activities;
3. energy and mineral development interests; or commercial or
recreational fishing interests;
4. commercial timber industry;
5. hold Federal grazing or other land use permits, or represent
nonindustrial private forest land owners, within the area for which
the committee is organized.

Category B, five persons who represent:
1. nationally recognized environmental organizations;
2. regionally or locally recognized environmental organizations;
3. dispersed recreational activities;
4. archaeological and historical interests;
5. nationally or regionally recognized wild horse and burro interest
groups, wildlife or hunting organizations, or watershed associations.

Category C, five persons who represent:
1. State elected office (or a designee);
2. county or local elected office;
3. American Indian tribes within or adjacent to the area for which the
committee is organized;
4. school officials or teachers;
5. represent the affected public at large.

The Secure Rural Schools Web site is ; see Title II Summary for more details. Information specific to RACs and the application form AD-755 that must be completed as part on a RAC nomination is at

Other Background Information

Title I: Schools and Roads--Twenty-two counties in New Mexico elected to receive about $17.4 million through the State in January 2009, with 50 percent sent directly to the School Districts and 50 percent to counties for road work. Title I funding will continue for the next three years with 10 percent reductions each year.

Title II: Funds may be used for road, trail, and infrastructure maintenance or obliteration; soil productivity improvement; improvements in forest ecosystem health; watershed restoration and maintenance; restoration, maintenance and improvement of wildlife and fish habitat; control of noxious and exotic weeds; re-establishment of native species; road maintenance, decommissioning, or obliteration; and restoration of streams and watersheds. Title II funding will continue for the next three years with 10 percent reductions each year.

Title III: Local Government Programs--Eighteen counties elected to receive nearly $1,475,000 to be used for the Firewise Communities program, to reimburse counties for search and rescue and other emergency services, and to develop community wildfire protection plans. Title III funding will continue for the next three years with 10 percent reductions each year.