š ALTERNATIVES TO FEDERAL WILDERNESS DESIGNATION

 
 


In reading the law and being faithful to the points of the law, the areas in Dona Ana County do not, in fact or in spirit, meet wilderness criteria.  The old mines, roads, equipment, structures, power lines, wells, pipelines, stock tanks, fences, and other improvements that dot the expanse of these areas technically exclude them.  Several of the areas being proposed by environmentalist groups are areas which the BLM has studied in detail and found unsuitable for a Wilderness designation.  The west side of the Organ Mountains even contains a designated EPA Superfund Site.

DESPITE THE INFORMATION MANY GROUPS CLAIM, PROTECTING THE LAND AND NATURAL RESOURCES DOES NOT REQUIRE A DESIGNATION OF WILDERNESS.

There can be no question that Federal Wilderness designation is controversial, and for good reason.

The Federal Wilderness designation brings with it a very stringent level of management requirements and restrictions which must be followed by the agency responsible for managing the land.  The public needs to be fully aware of the numerous consequences of Federal Wilderness designation that will impact every citizen.  These management restrictions will impact everyone who tries to access or utilize the land for any reason. 

"WILDERNESS" IS JUST THE BEGINNING...

There are often concessions that are made to secure support for designating new Federal Wilderness areas.  Local groups and individuals are encouraged to compromise, with assurances that the concessions they agree to will be included in the wilderness legislation for the area. 

What people typically don't realize is that the Federal Wilderness designation is just a start.  It creates a foothold.  Once the wilderness designation is in place, other groups like "Wilderness Watch", "Forest Guardians" and others move in to begin their work of initiating legislation to remove the concessions put in place when the wilderness designation was established.

So if a designation of wilderness is NOT the right answer, what is?

ALTERNATIVES TO FEDERAL WILDERNESS DESIGNATION

During the workgroup meetings managed by the City of Las Cruces, Frank DuBois presented recommendations for evaluating alternatives to wilderness.

The Valle Vidal is one example of another approach to protecting public land.  Much like our situation in Dona Ana county, the characteristics of the Valle Vidal in northern New Mexico precluded it from being designated as wilderness.  However, congress has taken legislative action to permanently protect the Valle Vidal by passing the Valle Vidal Protection Act into law

With that action, the Valle Vidal is not only going to be a protected permanent feature of our public lands, it will be accessible to any American without the encumbrance of unnecessary restrictions.  Anyone old, young, handicapped, ambulatory, horseback, on foot, on bicycle, in a car, or in a buckboard can enjoy the magnificence of that beautiful place.  A wilderness designation does not allow this level of enjoyment and access.

From a News Release December 13, 2006, "The law amends the Forest Service management plan for the Valle Vidal to ban mineral extraction, while allowing the Forest Service to continue its management and ensuring the current recreational and agricultural uses on the land continue." and "I was pleased to join this bipartisan effort to preserve one of New Mexico’s great natural wonders," Rep. Pearce said. "This bill passed a key test of good environmental legislation – common sense. I commend Congressman Tom Udall for finding balance between environmental protection, community development, and respect for private property rights."

There are numerous administrative and legislative options available that can be used to appropriately manage specific resources,  while at the same time protecting property rights, providing reasonable flexibility to land management agencies and law enforcement agencies, and granting access to the general public for recreation and enjoyment. 

  • If the primary threat to the resource is future development, that portion of the land can be withdrawn from the disposal provisions of Federal law.  The land could no longer be disposed of by sale or exchange, thus preventing future development.
  • If the primary threat is mining or oil and gas leasing, that portion of the land can be withdrawn from the mining and mineral leasing provisions of Federal law.  If a mining claim or mineral lease already exists on the property, they can be purchased outright or exchanged for claims or leases on other Federal land.
  • If the primary threat is OHV use, Congress has several options.  Congress could totally ban OHVs from the area, or ban them on certain portions of the area, or ban them during certain times of the year.  Under any of these options, Congress could allow vehicular access to the BLM for administrative purposes, to law enforcement agencies, and to the grazing permittee for normal ranching operations.
  • In addition to Wilderness, the BLM's National Landscape Conservation System includes National Conservation Area, Cooperative Management and Protected Area, National Recreation Area and Outstanding Natural Area, all of which have been created by Congress.  None of the latter designations have an "organic act", so each is tailored by Congress to meet the specific needs of the resource, the existing property claims and holdings, and the public.
  • Congress has also established five Special Management Areas on National Forests in Arkansas, California, Colorado and Washington.  The legislative designation of a Special Management Area also allows for total flexibility in designing a management system to protect a unique resource.

We believe each area should be evaluated objectively to determine it's special resources (wildlife, archaeological, historical, cultural, scenic, etc.) that are worthy of protection.  The primary "threats" to the resources should also be identified, along with all existing encumbrances, claims, water rights, allotments, mining interests, rights-of-way, leases and holdings for the area. 

With this information, an appropriate land use designation can be chosen to protect the unique resources, while at the same time preserving public access and doing the least harm to those who hold legal claims on the Federal land.

SOLUTIONS FOR DONA ANA COUNTY

Western Heritage Association has prepared a draft of legislation which would preserve the special areas in our county FOR the people instead of FROM the people.  The proposal is the DONA ANA COUNTY PLANNED GROWTH, OPEN SPACE AND RANGELAND PRESERVATION ACT.

Click here for the press release & details of this important legislative proposal
Las Cruces Sun News article: "Ranchers pitch land plan"

10/26/2007 - statement of support from the National Association of Former Border Patrol Officers.

Click here to express your support this effort.

See the Letters section of this website to read statements from various law enforcement agencies and other businesses and citizens.

We also have additional information on the history of ranching, property rights and the devastating impacts of wilderness designation.

The Reference Material Section contains information on Grazing Issues, Property Rights Issues, Wilderness Management Issues and Trail Closures & Removals.