With regard to zoning changes, annexations, subdivision plans, BLM’s
Resource Management Plan amendments, etc:
Question: What do these land use plans and
amendments have in common?
Answer: While there may at times be
dissatisfaction with the process, the public is nevertheless allowed
opportunities to comment, before a vote is taken or a final decision is
With regard to the proposal
for designating over 300,000 acres (more than 475 square miles! all
within operating cattle ranches and currently open to public access) in
Doña Ana County as Wilderness and National Conservation areas (NCA’s):
Question: Should the public and the
ranchers have been allowed to comment?
Answer: Of course. But they were not
invited to comment either before or after the Councils of Hatch, Mesilla,
Sunland Park, and Las Cruces, and the County Commission sent resolutions
to Senator Domenici supporting the proposals. The resolutions were in
support of immediate Congressional action designating wilderness and NCA’s!
Question: Prior to approving the
resolutions, didn’t the councils and commission at least contact the
ranchers, whose way of life, their investments and livelihoods would all
be put at risk?
Answer: They did not contact a single
Question: Then who did have input?
Answer: Paid staff of New Mexico Wilderness
Alliance, mostly non-residents brought in from out of town to advance the
NMWA proposals. NMWA had not talked with a single rancher, either, but
represented they had the ranchers’ approval of their proposals!
HOW WOULD WILDERNESS
DESIGNATIONS AFFECT THE PUBLIC AND THE RANCHES ?
Question: Would the public and the ranchers
retain access into the cattle ranches which comprise the proposed
Answer: Vehicles and other mechanized
equipment are generally not allowed in Wilderness areas. Ranchers may be
allowed “occasional” use through a permit process which is totally
unsatisfactory and impractical.
Question: Would access be allowed via
“cherry stems” into the Wilderness areas? Note: Cherry stems are roads
into but said to be “outside” of Wilderness areas by lines drawn on the
map, in itself a departure from the Wilderness ideal.
Answer: The proposals would allow
very limited access via
“cherry stems”. Most of each proposed area would be
accessible only by walking in or by horseback, effectively closing the
areas entirely to most people.
We believe most people are unaware that
Wilderness designations would end the public’s ability to drive into and
through most of the open spaces now accessible for sightseeing,
picnicking, camping, hunting, bird-watching, hiking, or simply finding
solitude. The great open spaces managed and preserved under multiple-use
management for decades would in large measure be removed from public use
and enjoyment by Wilderness designations. Further, the few areas
remaining under multiple-use management and open to public access would be
heavily impacted with increased traffic.
Question: How are NCA areas managed?
Answer: Grazing management and access in
NCA’s will be subject to a management plan to be written for each NCA.
The management plans typically impose restrictions similar to those in
Question: Would the ranchers be able to
continue ranching with such restrictions on the use of vehicles and other
mechanized equipment and without adequate access?
Answer: As a practical matter, probably not
for long. There were 18 operating cattle ranches in the Gila Wilderness.
Today, there are none. The ranchers were unable to operate under the
restrictions placed on them.
Question: Isn’t NMWA in favor of continued
ranching in the proposed Wilderness areas?
Answer: If you believe what the paid staff
says, you might think so. But their statement that under the Wilderness
Act ranching is allowed to continue appears to be “tongue in cheek” given
their real agenda. A search on the internet for background on NMWA board
members (including one who recently resigned) reveals statements which
make it obvious that their agenda includes elimination of livestock
grazing on the “public” lands. A former high level NMWA staff person has
stated that NMWA’s agenda following wilderness designations is to remove
the livestock and the people “one ranch at a time”, and that wilderness
designations are merely the first step in meeting their agenda.
NMWA chooses to ignore the many studies
completed by professional range management specialists, including those
conducted by specialists at New Mexico State University, which demonstrate
that well-managed livestock grazing is beneficial to the soils and to the
WHAT CAN WE DO NOW TO PRESERVE
ACCESS TO OUR OPEN SPACES?
Question: How can we reverse the effect of
the City and County resolutions which endorsed the NMWA proposal to
designate over 300,000 acres of Doña Ana County ranch land as Wilderness
Answer: We believe that our city/town
councilors, and our county commissioners would not knowingly support a
plan having potential to cause ranchers operating 18 separate grazing
allotments to lose their substantial investments as well as their
livelihoods, and to cause the public to lose the cherished access to the
open spaces which they have enjoyed for decades. Nevertheless, that would
be the likely results of wilderness and NCA designations as proposed, and
as reflected in the resolutions supporting the proposals. While some
councilors and commissioners have acknowledged that additional input
should have been allowed and considered, and that their vote would be
different based on their current knowledge, the resolutions remain a part
of the official records. The resolutions should be rescinded,
in consideration of the affected residents who were not allowed to provide
Wilderness and National
Conservation Areas can be designated only by an Act of Congress. Our
Congressmen need to know we want vehicular access into the ranch country
in Dona Ana County, and we want to preserve the ranchers’ ability to
manage the land and preserve the open spaces under multiple-use
management, as they have for decades.
We should send
messages to our Congressmen, objecting to the
resolutions which were sent to them, and
opposing the proposed wilderness and NCA
designations, at the email addresses below.
It would also help to
contact our councilors and commissioners and to provide copies of our
letters to them. We would appreciate receiving a copy as well at