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Sagebrush rebellion flares up in New Mexico

Catron County, New Mexico.

Illegal logging planned by Otero County to highlight quest for local control of federal lands

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — A New Mexico congressman is inciting residents of his district and state to violate federal laws by ignoring Forest Service regulations on motorized travel and encouraging local communities to cut trees on federal land without required permits and environmental studies.

Additionally,  Sierra County Sheriff Joe Baca, Jr., publicly (on a Facebook page) threatened to arrest federal employees if they try to close national forest roads pursuant to Forest Service regulations (see the Facebook thread at the end of the story).

U.S. Rep. Steve Pearce (R-N.M.) is leading yet another version of a sagebrush rebellion against the federal government, resulting what is being described by environmental groups as vigilante destruction of public lands.

The Center for Biological Diversity says Catron County  bulldozed 13 miles of the San Francisco River in Catron County, and violated private property rights in the process.  The southeastern New Mexico county has long been a hotbed of anti-federal sentiment. The river is designated critical habitat for the endangered loach minnow; the bulldozed section includes an inventoried roadless area downstream of Reserve.

A section of the bulldozing done by Catron County near the San Francisco River. PHOTO COURTESY CENTER FOR BIOLOGICAL DIVERSITY.

In a press release dated Aug. 3, 2011, seven days before the bulldozing incident, Pearce highlighted the fact that sheriffs in counties that patrol the Gila will not enforce roadless rules or the Forest Service’s travel management plan, which manages off-road vehicle use.

“If the Forest Service goes forward with their Travel Management Plan, then my deputies will not be out there keeping people off the roads,” said Sierra County Sheriff Joe Baca. “I will send back the $16,000 I’m given for forest patrols. I have better things to do — preventing real crimes — than keeping people out of the forest.”

The only federal response from the Obama administration has been a multi-agency tour of the area and a letter from the Forest Service to the county.

“Public and elected officials should not be encouraging or engaging in vigilantism on private and federal public lands,” said Cyndi Tuell at the Center for Biological Diversity. “This radical anti-environmental agenda is as dangerous and misinformed as it is out of touch with Americans’ public-lands values.”

At an August town hall in Eager, Ariz., Congressman Pearce urged counties to take control of all the land within their boundaries, including federal public land.

On Sept. 17 Pearce and Otero County officials plan to  log an acre of national forest land without federal permits as a protest against Forest Service environmental regulations.

The Otero County Commission voted in June to create an emergency forest plan, allowing the county to forego U.S. Forest Service policy and cut trees in the event of an emergency. They created an 80,000-acre plan that calls for responsible management to protect local watershed and prevent fires that have threatened Cloudcroft for many years.

Otero County Commissioner Ronny Rardin has spearheaded efforts to thin the forest around Cloudcroft.

“This is not just about a tree,” said Rardin. “It’s about the fact that our county has been in a declared state of emergency for quite some time now because of severe drought. Our forest has been overcrowded for too long. We are going to show the world what an acre of forest land should look like.”

Click here for more information on Rep. Pearce’s recent activities.

Here’s a statement from Jamie Dickerman, press secretary for Rep. Pearce:

“There are many statements in your piece on Congressman Pearce that are misleading and incorrect. Congressman Pearce is not going to be engaged in any act against the law, nor is he encouraging people to break the law. According to the County Commission’s Emergency Plan, in times of emergency cutting should be handled by the county. In June Otero County voted on the emergency plan that calls for responsible management to protect local watershed and prevent fires. Under New Mexico state statute, Senate Bill 1 NM–4-36-11, it is indicated that the county commission has the right to cut trees within a state of emergency. To do so, they can contract to private contractors to go in and manage the forest or the county commissioners have the authority to perform the cutting themselves. Not just anyone can cut trees. The county is given specific authority to do so by the statute. Only those who are authorized by the county or deputized by the Sheriff will be able to cut trees, making this a lawful act.”

A Facebook Page maintained by local-control advocates in the region tells a different story. Here are some of the posts, illustrating how Pearce’s comments are perceived:

Tim Keithley, Congressman Steve Pearce’s representative was prersent at our KOFO meeting to express congressman Pearce’s support for our cause. Congressman Pearce is our only friend in Washington! All the other congressmen and senators are in bed with the enviro-wackos! We need to elect people who truly represent the people of NM not the environementalist lobby! Bingaman is retiring, thank God! We have opportunity to elect a Senator who will stand up for our rights to log, graze, drill and mine the forests and BLM! Its up to us to see it gets done!
Sorry I could not make it last night. Just know that I will not let them close any roads and if they so choose to do so I will arrest them for unlawfully closing a county road. They have no jurisdiction in Sierra County without me and I will not give them any. You have my support 100% and we will keeps the forest open!
August 31 at 4:04pm ·
Mike Skidmore
We need bikers, off-roaders, hunters, ranchers, trail riders, everyone interested in keeping our freedoms and restoring control to the local government to show up in force and help Steve Pearce log an acre of national forest. The fire danger has never been higher and the forest service never less cooperative! Show up and help us take our country back, one county at a time! Otero today, Sierra, Grant, Socorro, Catron, Hildago next!
Mike Skidmore
ANOTHER NEWS FLASH! On Saturday, September 17 at Cloudcroft during Lumberjack Days Celebration, Congressman Steve Pearce will log the first tree off the Lincoln National Forest! He will be going against the Forst Service and environmental groups, but will be following a resolution by Otero county commissioners who declared the forest a fire hazard! They are asking for 100’s of supporters to show up and rally behind Otero county and Congressman Pearce!

View the rest of the Facebook thread.

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16 Responses

  1. Bulldoze the forest. No wonder the country is falling apart at the seams. With politicians who advocate taking the law into their own hands, then whining that they didn’t have anything to do with what the the mob did, just because he yelled fire.

  2. If Pearce wants to promote state’s rights (or a political subdivision thereof) he should run for Governor. He has sworn an oath to the Constitution of the United States, and should at minimum promote the process of compliance with Federal law. Believe it or not, County ordinances and Federal law are not mutually exclusive. If he is unwilling to do his duty, he should resign.

  3. What an appalling example to set for our children. Pierce, Baca, and anyone else who shows up for this madness should be arrested.by the feds. Shame on them all.

    • You can bet your ass I’m gonna show up. What in the hell is wrong with you people? Congressman Pearce IS doing his job! You people are the ones that don’t understand the Constitution! Abiding by supposed Federal law is NOT required or enumerated in any way in that document.

      • Explain to me, in detail please, how ruining wildlife and fishing habitat by bulldozing 13 mi. or river land area which then tramples the hunting and fishing rights of individuals is constitutional?

        ..or even makes any freakin’ sense on any level?

        • They are not going to bulldoze anything. They are going to show what properly managed forest looks like. It is time that each state take back the lands that rightfully belong to them and get the feds OUT of our business.

        • In this article (above), I see a picture of bulldozed river lands courtesy of Catron County. If this is part of the county’s so-called “local control” effort, it only demonstrates that they are “out of control.”

          And if they keep stomping on the hunting and fishing rights of others, they may well find themselves “out of office.”

          Can anybody explain to me what the point of this was?…other than to demonstrate any idiot can run a bulldozer?

          >>>The Otero County Commission voted in June to create an emergency forest plan, allowing the county to forego U.S. Forest Service policy and cut trees in the event of an emergency. They created an 80,000-acre plan that calls for responsible management to protect local watershed and prevent fires that have threatened Cloudcroft for many years.<<<

          How does bulldozing 13 mi. of river lands protect a watershed?

          Were this fish and foul not adequately displaying conservative, constitutional values?

          • [[[What an appalling example to set for our children. Pierce, Baca, and anyone else who shows up for this madness should be arrested.by the feds. Shame on them all.]]]]
            This is the post that I replied to and that is what the story is about. You have no clue as to WHY the bulldozing was done in the irrelevant story that was posted within this one. We will manage our counties the way we see fit.

  4. The feds do NOT “own” any land! That land belongs to the people and we intend to get it back!

  5. Mr. Reynolds,

    The federal lands are “publicly” owned, which includes the other 300 million U.S. citizens that vote for elected officals to represent their interests, not just the like-minded residents of Catron County.

  6. Voter, as an absentee landlord, you (and the Feds) have left the maintenance and upkeep to the Local Citizenry. They are in a better position to say what is the best way to maintain the Nation’s interest in this little bit of tinder, and the Federal Land it sits on. And they will do it more cost effectively and with an eye for safety and sustainability. As a Citizen of a Differ’nt State, I approve.

  7. The writer apparently does not know New Mexico. Nobody needs to incite these folks. They have been battling the federal government
    and the special interest environmental groups for years who want to control the land for themselves and and turn them into their private playgrounds for the privileged.

  8. Aside from the rhetoric of who knows what, is better to understand what is taking place, the facts remain that the environmental people are not special interest driven, especially in regards of turning the land into private privileged playgrounds. But it’s the present group of politicians who will be the ones doing such, because they have to pay for all that money that’s shoveled their way. Open up the eyes, if the Federals were from special interests, then the lands would be private today.

    • “environmental people are not special interest driven”

      Of course they are… It’s just a different Special Interest than the people in Catron County.

      • Just sent a check to center for biological diversity. Hopefully, they’ll sue Catron Co. BTW, I’m quite familiar with “Cartoon” Co and their lunatic fringe including the former Kit Laney and the whole Diamond Bar incident. I also know how the ranchers leave fencing down so cattle can graze illegally. In fact, I’ve seen cows down along the forks after they were driven out years ago. Nobody buys into the cowboy mystique anymore and the BS People for the West. Another vested interested depending on taxpayer welfare.

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