OP-ED: Environmental groups inhibit New Mexicans from using national forests

Oct 17, 2014

Washington, DC (Oct. 10, 2014) In the second district of New Mexico, we have four national forests in whole or in part. It is the job of the Forest Service to ensure that our national forests are preserved, but also to ensure that they are kept open for outdoor recreation and resource development that does not harm the environment. Hundreds of thousands of people from across the country come to New Mexico to enjoy fishing, hunting, hiking, camping, and the numerous other recreational activities that our national forests provide every year. The water in our national forests is used to support New Mexico’s cattle and agriculture industries, and the trees support our timber industry. New Mexico’s national forests also create a large amount of economic activity through tourism and responsible production.

As one can easily tell, New Mexico’s national forests satisfy a number of different needs. This is why I am dismayed that radical environmental groups from outside of our state continually attempt to close off great swaths of our national forests. These continued attempts to expand and even create new wilderness area will have a devastating impact on thousands of New Mexicans. These environmental groups will inhibit everyday New Mexicans from using our national forests for recreational activities and the enjoyment of property rights.

The groups wish to directly affect the way ranchers and job creator’s work within the forests with their end goal being the reduction of ranching and resource production. A great example of this was the listing of the spotted owl under the ESA, a decision that drastically reduced timber production in the American West.  The meadow jumping mouse is another example as ranchers have been removed from their grazing allotments due to the listing. Just this past spring, the US Forest Service, due to the listing of the jumping mouse, also fenced off ranchers from the water that the Office of the State Engineer says they own. This is a flagrant violation of properties rights, and it is a direct result of radical special interests pushing their agenda on New Mexicans.

Recently, environmental groups pushed the Cibola National Forest to move forward with the initial steps of a wilderness designation within the Mt. Taylor Ranger District during the development of the new forest management plan. Many times, these radical interest groups will work with federal agencies to ram these changes through with as little public input or notice as possible. My office worked with the people of Cibola County to ensure their voices were heard on this great change in the way their forest is managed.

My staff has helped spread the word on work sessions to help shape the new Cibola National Forest Plan.  These efforts ensure that the people who the plan will affect the most have a say in the process.  A staff led group formed a Facebook page to draw attention to a meeting in Grants in June. This effort allowed 160 people to show up for the event, as opposed to the 25 people who showed up for a similar event in Albuquerque.  Staff continued to help the group by organizing a rally for meetings in September that led to 420 people attending the meeting.

I will fight against these continued attempts to close off our land from the people. It is your land, and you know how to manage it better than any outside special interest or government bureaucracy can.