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
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 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.
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
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.
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.
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
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
- 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
- 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
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
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
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
Click here for the press release & details of this important
Las Cruces Sun News article: "Ranchers
pitch land plan"
10/26/2007 - statement
of support from the
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.
Reference Material Section
contains information on Grazing Issues, Property Rights Issues, Wilderness
Management Issues and Trail Closures & Removals.