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2012

  • By Avicra Luckey | New Mexico Daily Lobo

    Environmental activist Demis Foster said young people can bring out-of-style causes back into the public eye with fresh ideas.

    Foster began her career as an activist in 1987 as a volunteer with the Wolf Recovery Foundation while still in college at Boise State University. After graduation, she moved to Seattle and continued her volunteer work with the Pacific Crest Biodiversity Project.

    She spoke in front of an art studio class in the Cochiti room in the SUB Tuesday. Students gathered around a preserved Mexican Gray Wolf, which she said was the original “Lobo Louie.”

    The exhibit was put together by artist and graduate student Daniel Richmond and features memorabilia and photos of “Lobo Louie” on display.

    An English major, Foster always thought she would travel the world and teach, but once she experienced the rainforest, everything changed.

    “I realized when I graduated from college and moved to the rainforest, how significant and amazing the rainforest was,” she said. “When I saw that it was being destroyed so quickly and needlessly, all of a sudden I knew immediately I needed to do something, and the next thing I knew I was volunteering.”

    She has been an environmental activist for the better part of the last 20 years. Foster is most well-known for her work with the Ancient Forest Roadshow, a campaign to bring attention to clearcutting of ancient forests by driving a 450-year-old Douglas-fir tree around to 38 states.

    Richmond said as the UNM Lobos, a great way for UNM students to show Lobo pride is to get behind the Mexican Gray Wolf restoration effort.

    He asked Foster to speak to his art studio class about the role artists can play in social and environmental movements.

    “I thought it was a good venue to show them the (exhibit), which uses a visual symbol of the University that we’re all a part of and then also mix it with someone who has done outreach work with art and with community and symbols,” he said.

    UNM student Stevie Lowrey said she is able to see what she can do as an artist to contribute to larger social movements and is excited to start weaving different subject matters, including animals, into her artwork.

    “The concept of saving the wolf and saving beings that are higher up in our food chain put into perspective our being and what we can do to make things work,” she said.

  • Alamogordo Daily News
    By Stacy Stevens, For the Daily News

    12/27/2011

    Otero Mesa is a unique ecosystem. North America once had vast grasslands supporting a biodiversity unique in the world. The huge numbers of bison and pronghorns that once roamed our grasslands were part of the American dream.

    During the past 150 years, much of that grassland has been used by agriculture and ranching to support our growing population. It is one of the main reasons that our country is so prosperous and great today. But, some grasslands have been used to the point of no return and reclaiming them may be impossible.

    One of those grasslands is in the Southwest — the Chihuahuan desert grasslands. Through a combination of overgrazing and drought, the grasses that were once so plentiful have turned into desert scrub creosote and mesquite dunes, never to be returned to the grasslands so productive as they once were for agriculture and wildlife.

    Otero Mesa represents one of New Mexico’s top 10 most important bird areas, according to the Audubon Society, and is the largest and wildest Chihuahuan desert grassland remaining on public lands in the United States. Today, we have a unique opportunity to save a significant portion of the plentiful widespread grassland in the Otero Mesa.

    With more than one million acres of wide-open black grama grass, it is truly awe-inspiring. The wildlife and livestock that live there thrive on these grasses and give us a glimpse of what it was like in the 19th century.

    Across North America, many avian species live year-round in special places like Otero Mesa, and many more birds use the grasslands as stopovers for their annual migrations north and south. In fact, the mesa is home to more than 200 species of migratory songbirds.

    But, during the past several years Audubon and many other organizations and universities have surveyed our grassland birds and noticed a dramatic drop in species. Birds in peril include the black-throat sparrow, Cassin’s sparrow and the loggerhead shrike, all of which are native to the Southwest, and the sage sparrow and Savannah sparrows that winter in the grasslands.

    These small sparrows are important not only unto themselves, but also to the raptors that, in some cases, prey upon them. When the prey species are gone, the hawks, eagles and falcons will disappear with them.

    One special species of falcon, the Aplomado falcon, once thrived on the Chihuahuan desert grassland. As of the 1950s, this falcon was no longer found in the United States, although populations are still found in Mexico and further south. This falcon, through the Peregrine Foundation, has been reintroduced in Texas and New Mexico, but their survival will depend on keeping their habitat, like Otero Mesa, intact.

    Once you have seen a mating pair of Aplomado falcons hunt as a team, you will never forget the awesome acrobatic flying as they work together to catch their prey. This is a unique behavior to birds of prey and one of the many reasons to protect these important grasslands.

    The grasslands of Otero Mesa provide more than just critical habitat for awe-inspiring birds and other wildlife; they also represent an important economic asset to local communities and the state. According to a report by the nonprofit Outdoor Industry Association, each year New Mexico’s fish, wildlife and habitats contribute $3.8 billion to the state’s economy through hunting, fishing, wildlife watching and other outdoor recreation.

    These activities sustain 47,000 jobs (more than farming and forestry combined) and generate more than $184 million in yearly sales tax revenue.

    Unfortunately, Otero Mesa’s unique grasslands are facing an uncertain future as oil and gas exploration and hard-rock mining threaten to fragment the grasslands and reduce even further the wildlife species that make their home on the Otero Mesa.

    As we approach the end of the year, let us take time to think about what is really important in the long term. What is it we want to leave to our children — a legacy of polluted lands and irreparable damage to rare species and precious habitat, or a natural heritage that has been protected so that our children can glimpse those same pristine lands that their great-grandparents did?

    The choice is clear.

    After all, Otero Mesa’s real value lies in the uniqueness of its landscape, not in what we can extract from it in the short term. And by making this choice we are also protecting our long-term economic interests as conservation has shown to pay dividends both now and in the future by creating jobs, protecting the region’s environmental assets, improving our quality of life and attracting new businesses.

    We can save this one last grassland. This is our history, our heritage and a special place truly worth protecting.

    Stacy Stevens is a community and policy manager for Audubon New Mexico and a third generation New Mexican who loves the outdoors. This column is part of an ongoing series that the Alamogordo Daily News publishes every Wednesday regarding the protection of Otero Mesa. The column is provided by the Coalition for Otero Mesa and its stable of writers who are concerned about public lands and their protection. Views and opinions expressed in the columns are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views or opinions of the Daily News or its staff. For more information, visit www.oteromesa.org.

  • Las Cruces Sun-News
    04/17/2012

    When most people around here think of a national monument, visions of White Sands immediately come to mind — a contiguous area with a unique landscape that sets it apart from anything else in the state.

    Which is why the concept of the proposed Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument may be a little tough to grasp. Instead of one single area, with a gate at the front to collect admission fees from visitors, this proposed national monument would contain a number of sites surrounding Las Cruces — the Organ Mountains to the east; the West Potrillo Mountains, Aden Lava Flow and Kilbourne Hole to the south; the Robledo Mountains and Sierra de Las Uvas Mountains to the west and the Doña Ana Mountains to the north.

    And instead of one unifying feature like White Sands, the lands have an incredibly diverse features — with historic relevance ranging from ancient petroglyphs to the training site for Apollo Mission astronauts.

    About the only thing the sites have in common is that they’re all special, and they all should be protected for future generations. Which is why we think the proposed monument is worth pursuing.

    There are still some hurdles to overcome. The monument proposal can not interfere with the city’s efforts to lure the $1 billion research and development facility proposed by Pegasus Global Holdings for an area west of Las Cruces on the Corralitos Ranch. And, State Land Commissioner Ray Powell has said state trust land is not appropriate for a national monument, and land swaps will need to be completed for that land within the monument boundaries.

    But neither of those challenges should be insurmountable.

    Rep. Steve Pearce recently introduced a bill that would create a national monument for the Organ Mountains, but would exclude the other sites. His bill would also strip existing protections for the land that is under Wilderness Study Area designation. For that reason, we see Pearce’s bill as one step forward, two steps back.

    Sen. Jeff Bingaman has also introduced a wilderness bill for these areas. But the truth is neither Pearce’s or Bingaman’s bill will be passed in the current divided Congress.

    One of the biggest advantages of seeking a national monument is that it can be done without congressional action. The Antiquities Act of 1906 gives the president authority to act on his own to protect our nation’s historic treasures.

    Creation of a national monument would not change existing designations. The area of the Organs designated as Wilderness Study Area would still remain. Kilbourne Hole would still be designated a national landmark.

    But a national monument designation would preserve and protect the areas, while highlighting their historic and cultural significance.
    The BLM would develop the monument plan, with local input. Traditional activities like hunting, fishing, horseback riding, camping, backpacking, hiking, mountain biking and four-wheeling on designated roads would all be included as part of the plan.

    Anybody who has visited these areas knows how special they are. They need to be protected and preserved. Right now, it looks like the monument proposal may be the best way to achieve that goal.

  • Las Cruces Sun-News
    04/17/2012

    When most people around here think of a national monument, visions of White Sands immediately come to mind — a contiguous area with a unique landscape that sets it apart from anything else in the state.

    Which is why the concept of the proposed Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument may be a little tough to grasp. Instead of one single area, with a gate at the front to collect admission fees from visitors, this proposed national monument would contain a number of sites surrounding Las Cruces — the Organ Mountains to the east; the West Potrillo Mountains, Aden Lava Flow and Kilbourne Hole to the south; the Robledo Mountains and Sierra de Las Uvas Mountains to the west and the Doña Ana Mountains to the north.

    And instead of one unifying feature like White Sands, the lands have an incredibly diverse features — with historic relevance ranging from ancient petroglyphs to the training site for Apollo Mission astronauts.

    About the only thing the sites have in common is that they’re all special, and they all should be protected for future generations. Which is why we think the proposed monument is worth pursuing.

    There are still some hurdles to overcome. The monument proposal can not interfere with the city’s efforts to lure the $1 billion research and development facility proposed by Pegasus Global Holdings for an area west of Las Cruces on the Corralitos Ranch. And, State Land Commissioner Ray Powell has said state trust land is not appropriate for a national monument, and land swaps will need to be completed for that land within the monument boundaries.

    But neither of those challenges should be insurmountable.

    Rep. Steve Pearce recently introduced a bill that would create a national monument for the Organ Mountains, but would exclude the other sites. His bill would also strip existing protections for the land that is under Wilderness Study Area designation. For that reason, we see Pearce’s bill as one step forward, two steps back.

    Sen. Jeff Bingaman has also introduced a wilderness bill for these areas. But the truth is neither Pearce’s or Bingaman’s bill will be passed in the current divided Congress.

    One of the biggest advantages of seeking a national monument is that it can be done without congressional action. The Antiquities Act of 1906 gives the president authority to act on his own to protect our nation’s historic treasures.

    Creation of a national monument would not change existing designations. The area of the Organs designated as Wilderness Study Area would still remain. Kilbourne Hole would still be designated a national landmark.

    But a national monument designation would preserve and protect the areas, while highlighting their historic and cultural significance.
    The BLM would develop the monument plan, with local input. Traditional activities like hunting, fishing, horseback riding, camping, backpacking, hiking, mountain biking and four-wheeling on designated roads would all be included as part of the plan.

    Anybody who has visited these areas knows how special they are. They need to be protected and preserved. Right now, it looks like the monument proposal may be the best way to achieve that goal.

  • Las Cruces Sun News
    12/16/2012

    In a little more than two weeks, S1024 — the Organ Mountains-Doña Ana County Conservation and Protection Act — will die when the second session of the 112th Congress comes to an end.

    At the same time, Sen. Jeff Bingaman, the sponsor of the bill, will step down after serving in the Senate for three decades. While his replacement, Sen.-elect Martin Heinrich, has expressed support for the proposed local national monument and could pick up the cause, he will do so as a freshman, not as chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee.

    All of which suggests a legislative solution to the issue of federal public lands protection in Doña Ana County is simply out of reach, and will likely continue to be for some time. Bingaman will go down as one of the Senate’s great champions for the preservation of public lands. But even with his leadership, this Congress will recess without adding a single acre of wilderness protection to federal lands.

    It is becoming increasing clear that if the public lands in and around Las Cruces are to be granted national monument status, it will have to come from President Obama using his authority under the Antiquities Act to do so without the participation of Congress.

    In a letter sent to Obama in October, Bingaman and Sen. Tom Udall both urged him to do just that. They weren’t giving up on the legislation, Udall said at the time, but they understood the realities of our current divided government.

    Backers of the proposed Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument released poll results recently showing that 83 percent of all voters support the planned monument and only 10 percent oppose it. While those numbers were likely skewed by the wording of the question, there is little doubt as to the widespread support for preserving our most scenic and historically significant lands for future generations to enjoy.

    That preservation effort should start with the Organs, but it should not end there. The petroglyph sites in Valles Canyon and spread throughout the Sierra de Las Uvas Mountains; the Aden Lava Flow and Aden Crater; Kilbourne Hole; the Butterfield Stage Trail and other areas around Las Cruces should be included as well.

    National monument status would not close off these lands, as some have feared. Nor would it prevent Border Patrol officers from doing their jobs to secure the border. Existing land protections legislated by Congress would still remain in place, but new protection would be added for areas not now covered.

    Exact boundaries of the monument would be laid out by the president, with input from the secretary of the Interior and local stakeholders.

    Along with protecting and preserving the lands, a national monument would also draw new attention to the sites, creating an economic benefit as well.

    The Doña Ana County Commission and Las Cruces City Council are both on record in support of the monument. Obama should give great weight to that local support as he considers this request.

  • Las Cruces Sun News
    12/16/2012

    In a little more than two weeks, S1024 — the Organ Mountains-Doña Ana County Conservation and Protection Act — will die when the second session of the 112th Congress comes to an end.

    At the same time, Sen. Jeff Bingaman, the sponsor of the bill, will step down after serving in the Senate for three decades. While his replacement, Sen.-elect Martin Heinrich, has expressed support for the proposed local national monument and could pick up the cause, he will do so as a freshman, not as chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee.

    All of which suggests a legislative solution to the issue of federal public lands protection in Doña Ana County is simply out of reach, and will likely continue to be for some time. Bingaman will go down as one of the Senate’s great champions for the preservation of public lands. But even with his leadership, this Congress will recess without adding a single acre of wilderness protection to federal lands.

    It is becoming increasing clear that if the public lands in and around Las Cruces are to be granted national monument status, it will have to come from President Obama using his authority under the Antiquities Act to do so without the participation of Congress.

    In a letter sent to Obama in October, Bingaman and Sen. Tom Udall both urged him to do just that. They weren’t giving up on the legislation, Udall said at the time, but they understood the realities of our current divided government.

    Backers of the proposed Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument released poll results recently showing that 83 percent of all voters support the planned monument and only 10 percent oppose it. While those numbers were likely skewed by the wording of the question, there is little doubt as to the widespread support for preserving our most scenic and historically significant lands for future generations to enjoy.

    That preservation effort should start with the Organs, but it should not end there. The petroglyph sites in Valles Canyon and spread throughout the Sierra de Las Uvas Mountains; the Aden Lava Flow and Aden Crater; Kilbourne Hole; the Butterfield Stage Trail and other areas around Las Cruces should be included as well.

    National monument status would not close off these lands, as some have feared. Nor would it prevent Border Patrol officers from doing their jobs to secure the border. Existing land protections legislated by Congress would still remain in place, but new protection would be added for areas not now covered.

    Exact boundaries of the monument would be laid out by the president, with input from the secretary of the Interior and local stakeholders.

    Along with protecting and preserving the lands, a national monument would also draw new attention to the sites, creating an economic benefit as well.

    The Doña Ana County Commission and Las Cruces City Council are both on record in support of the monument. Obama should give great weight to that local support as he considers this request.

  • Lynn Martel for The Calgary Herald
    Published: Friday, January 27, 2012

    Fleeting images from the official trailer for the new Hollywood film The Grey suggest a love story, a violent plane crash, then a flash of bristling fur, the glint of a knife blade, and, in the background, the sound of a haunting howl.

    Opening in theatres this weekend, The Grey is described as the story of an “unruly group of oil-rig roughnecks” whose plane crashes in the remote Alaskan wilderness. Amid a mountain backdrop – in reality, Whistler and Smithers, B.C. – the cast, headlined by Liam Neeson, must battle mortal injuries, merciless weather and, most menacing of all, “a vicious pack of rogue wolves on the hunt.”

    Before you settle in with a tub of buttery popcorn, take note that wolf experts are giving the reality factor of the production a unanimous thumbs-down.

    “What is described in the film is not typical wolf behaviour,” says University of Calgary wolf researcher Shelley Alexander. “Most carnivores, canids [wolves, coyotes] in particular, already suffer from gross prejudice as a consequence of lack of education and understanding. This prejudice cannot be made better by stereotypical and negative portrayals of the animals interacting with people.”

    Paul Paquet, a senior scientist with the Raincoast Conservation Foundation, says such a film serves to feed into negative myths that have surrounded wolves for centuries.

    “I think it’s kind of an embarrassment for the studio and the producers and writers and actors,” Paquet says. “It’s such a blatant misrepresentation of reality. Unfortunately, though, there are consequences that are pretty negative for wolves.”

    Portraying wolves as manhunters creates unnecessary antipathy and fear, he says. In the long term that can mean people are less accepting of wolves and may even lead to people killing them.

    The very idea that wolves would stalk humans, says Canmore’s Gunther Bloch, a canid behaviour expert who has studied wolves for two decades, has no basis in reality.

    “It would be extremely exceptional behaviour, and only if they didn’t have a food resource – which in itself would be rare,” Bloch says.

    Wolves are opportunistic eaters whose food choices are dictated by availability and habitat. A wolf living in the northern Canadian tundra will hunt migrating caribou. In the Rockies, wolves eat deer, elk, bighorn sheep and snowshoe hares, and snack on mice and voles. In the Arctic, they hunt muskox. A West Coast wolf might feast on running salmon for several weeks.

    Given the opportunity, however, wolves will also help themselves to the offerings of an urban garbage dump.
    While a rabid or food-conditioned wolf might on very rare occasions lose its fear of humans and attack, a person who finds himself close to a wolf’s food source – even a kill – should not expect a fight.

    “They would bark an alarm bark, a warning,” Bloch says. “They wouldn’t attack; in the end, they would run away. They would figure out how to get the pups out of there.”

    For the most part, Bloch adds, wolves are very intelligent and have become well conditioned over thousands of years to fear humans who have so often – and successfully – persecuted them.

    Since the 1950s, wolves have enjoyed a period of recovery from widespread “control” efforts, the result of prejudices that arrived in North America with the first Europeans. But, while attitudes have changed, in some places where the population had recovered, wolves are again in jeopardy and being targeted.
    Wolves have long suffered from misconceptions, including the idea they operate exclusively by pack rules.

    For the first five or so months after a litter of pups is born in April, the parent wolves individually hunt small prey, bringing meals back to the den to feed their pups. Then, once the pups have grown, they assemble as hunting groups.

    Another misconception people have about wolves, Bloch says, is that wolf behaviour is restricted to hierarchy and status.

    “To say that wolves congregate in a pack suggests hierarchy, when the reality is a family-type situation – mother and father, pups and older pups helping look after younger ones, functioning as babysitters,” he says. “Wolves are very close. If a member is injured, they will feed it until it is well again. There are a lot of emotional things going on.”

    No one thing in the ecosystem is essential, but, as apex and summit predators, wolves interact with and influence a suite of other species, Paquet says. By extension, their presence has a profound effect on the ecosystem, as their behaviour affects not just the balance between predator and prey but also the plants their prey feed on.

    They can also have a positive influence on humans.

    “Nature and the wildlife it contains provide physical, emotional and intellectual benefits to people,” Paquet says. “The beauty and symbolic nature of large carnivores inspires many people. As a result, animals such as bears, tigers and wolves often form the foci of literature, poems, paintings, sculptures and dance.”

    Wolves figure prominently in First Nations’ cultures, but urban people too can develop strong emotional attachments to large carnivores.

    Few might ever see a polar bear or grizzly in the wild, but they want these animals to exist, not just for themselves, but also so their children or grandchildren might have an opportunity to see them in their natural habitat.

    Large carnivores, including wolves, top the list of species people hope to catch a glimpse of when they engage in wilderness-based recreation, which can translate into people spending money to travel for such opportunities.

    Unfortunately, though, Paquet says, some people harbour the attitude that wolves as predators are in competition with – and a threat to – humans.
    In the case of ranchers, farmers and hunters, the potential for wolves to physically harm a person is very rare, but the competition aspect is real.

    And the growth of the human population and subsequent encroachment on wolf habitat makes conflicts inevitable.
    “Humans tend to push out other species,” Paquet says.

    “That, in my view, has been one of the great mistakes of the conservation movement. All these years we’ve asked for tolerance, when all along we should have been asking for acceptance.”

  • Lynn Martel for The Calgary Herald
    Published: Friday, January 27, 2012

    Fleeting images from the official trailer for the new Hollywood film The Grey suggest a love story, a violent plane crash, then a flash of bristling fur, the glint of a knife blade, and, in the background, the sound of a haunting howl.

    Opening in theatres this weekend, The Grey is described as the story of an “unruly group of oil-rig roughnecks” whose plane crashes in the remote Alaskan wilderness. Amid a mountain backdrop – in reality, Whistler and Smithers, B.C. – the cast, headlined by Liam Neeson, must battle mortal injuries, merciless weather and, most menacing of all, “a vicious pack of rogue wolves on the hunt.”

    Before you settle in with a tub of buttery popcorn, take note that wolf experts are giving the reality factor of the production a unanimous thumbs-down.

    “What is described in the film is not typical wolf behaviour,” says University of Calgary wolf researcher Shelley Alexander. “Most carnivores, canids [wolves, coyotes] in particular, already suffer from gross prejudice as a consequence of lack of education and understanding. This prejudice cannot be made better by stereotypical and negative portrayals of the animals interacting with people.”

    Paul Paquet, a senior scientist with the Raincoast Conservation Foundation, says such a film serves to feed into negative myths that have surrounded wolves for centuries.

    “I think it’s kind of an embarrassment for the studio and the producers and writers and actors,” Paquet says. “It’s such a blatant misrepresentation of reality. Unfortunately, though, there are consequences that are pretty negative for wolves.”

    Portraying wolves as manhunters creates unnecessary antipathy and fear, he says. In the long term that can mean people are less accepting of wolves and may even lead to people killing them.

    The very idea that wolves would stalk humans, says Canmore’s Gunther Bloch, a canid behaviour expert who has studied wolves for two decades, has no basis in reality.

    “It would be extremely exceptional behaviour, and only if they didn’t have a food resource – which in itself would be rare,” Bloch says.

    Wolves are opportunistic eaters whose food choices are dictated by availability and habitat. A wolf living in the northern Canadian tundra will hunt migrating caribou. In the Rockies, wolves eat deer, elk, bighorn sheep and snowshoe hares, and snack on mice and voles. In the Arctic, they hunt muskox. A West Coast wolf might feast on running salmon for several weeks.

    Given the opportunity, however, wolves will also help themselves to the offerings of an urban garbage dump.
    While a rabid or food-conditioned wolf might on very rare occasions lose its fear of humans and attack, a person who finds himself close to a wolf’s food source – even a kill – should not expect a fight.

    “They would bark an alarm bark, a warning,” Bloch says. “They wouldn’t attack; in the end, they would run away. They would figure out how to get the pups out of there.”

    For the most part, Bloch adds, wolves are very intelligent and have become well conditioned over thousands of years to fear humans who have so often – and successfully – persecuted them.

    Since the 1950s, wolves have enjoyed a period of recovery from widespread “control” efforts, the result of prejudices that arrived in North America with the first Europeans. But, while attitudes have changed, in some places where the population had recovered, wolves are again in jeopardy and being targeted.
    Wolves have long suffered from misconceptions, including the idea they operate exclusively by pack rules.

    For the first five or so months after a litter of pups is born in April, the parent wolves individually hunt small prey, bringing meals back to the den to feed their pups. Then, once the pups have grown, they assemble as hunting groups.

    Another misconception people have about wolves, Bloch says, is that wolf behaviour is restricted to hierarchy and status.

    “To say that wolves congregate in a pack suggests hierarchy, when the reality is a family-type situation – mother and father, pups and older pups helping look after younger ones, functioning as babysitters,” he says. “Wolves are very close. If a member is injured, they will feed it until it is well again. There are a lot of emotional things going on.”

    No one thing in the ecosystem is essential, but, as apex and summit predators, wolves interact with and influence a suite of other species, Paquet says. By extension, their presence has a profound effect on the ecosystem, as their behaviour affects not just the balance between predator and prey but also the plants their prey feed on.

    They can also have a positive influence on humans.

    “Nature and the wildlife it contains provide physical, emotional and intellectual benefits to people,” Paquet says. “The beauty and symbolic nature of large carnivores inspires many people. As a result, animals such as bears, tigers and wolves often form the foci of literature, poems, paintings, sculptures and dance.”

    Wolves figure prominently in First Nations’ cultures, but urban people too can develop strong emotional attachments to large carnivores.

    Few might ever see a polar bear or grizzly in the wild, but they want these animals to exist, not just for themselves, but also so their children or grandchildren might have an opportunity to see them in their natural habitat.

    Large carnivores, including wolves, top the list of species people hope to catch a glimpse of when they engage in wilderness-based recreation, which can translate into people spending money to travel for such opportunities.

    Unfortunately, though, Paquet says, some people harbour the attitude that wolves as predators are in competition with – and a threat to – humans.
    In the case of ranchers, farmers and hunters, the potential for wolves to physically harm a person is very rare, but the competition aspect is real.

    And the growth of the human population and subsequent encroachment on wolf habitat makes conflicts inevitable.
    “Humans tend to push out other species,” Paquet says.

    “That, in my view, has been one of the great mistakes of the conservation movement. All these years we’ve asked for tolerance, when all along we should have been asking for acceptance.”

  • Phil Taylor, E&E reporter
    Published: Monday, March 26, 2012

    A House panel Thursday will review a bill to create a 236,000-acre conservation area in northern New Mexico and a separate measure to streamline environmental reviews for ranchers.

    The Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests and Public Lands will also consider bills to designate more than a dozen islands off the coast of Maine as wilderness and to name a California mountain after an Olympic skier.

    Rep. Ben Ray Luján’s (D-N.M.) H.R. 1242, which would protect a high mesa marked by sagebrush grasslands, piñon trees and volcanic cinder cones, has made considerable progress in the Senate, where a companion bill sponsored by Energy and Natural Resources Chairman Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.) was reported last fall with the Obama administration’s backing.

    The bill passed Bingaman’s committee easily by voice vote, though Sens. Mike Lee (R-Utah), Jim Risch (R-Idaho) and Rand Paul (R-Ky.) said they opposed the measure.

    Luján’s bill goes before a Republican-led committee that is yet to pass any substantive conservation measures. Panel leaders say they want to be extra careful that new land restrictions do not impede the economic needs of local communities.

    Luján in releasing the bill last Congress said he and his staff had met extensively with local ranchers, conservationists and other constituents to ensure traditional land uses including grazing and the gathering of piñon nuts, wild herbs and firewood are preserved.

    The bill would also designate more than 20,000 acres of wilderness, the highest form of public lands protection.
    “New Mexico’s culture, tradition and land are parts of our unique history that we must pass on to future generations,” he said at the time.

    The area provides habitat for bighorn sheep, deer, elk and antelope, as well as several types of raptors that use the area to track prey, according to the Senate committee report. The Rio Grande River offers a home to brown trout and the federally listed endangered southwestern willow flycatcher, while the broader region contains evidence of indigenous populations and early Hispanic settlers.

    While it is uncertain whether House leaders will choose to advance conservation bills in the 112th Congress, Thursday’s hearing marks the third time the subcommittee has taken up such proposals. It is yet to hold a markup on any measures.

    House leaders last week received a jolt from a GOP-aligned environmental group that urged them to allow votes on more than a dozen Republican-backed measures, including wilderness bills in a handful of states (E&ENews PM, March 22).

    Grazing bill

    The panel will also review a bill by Rep. Raúl Labrador (R-Idaho) that would double the length of grazing permits and automatically renew expired, transferred or waived permits before the completion of environmental reviews.

    Labrador said H.R. 4234 is needed to address an enormous backlog in grazing permits. His bill is likely to be well received in the committee, where federal red tape has been an overriding concern among Republican members.

    “Ranching is a time-honored tradition in Idaho and across the American West,” Labrador said in a statement last week when he introduced the bill. “It is an integral part of our cultural fabric and our economic security. As such, we must preserve it for future generations.”

    While the bill carries bipartisan support in the House, it drew howls from the Obama administration during a Senate hearing last week, where a Bureau of Land Management official warned it would short-circuit environmental reviews (E&E Daily, March 23).

    BLM Deputy Director Mike Pool said the proposal would prevent the agency from halting unsafe grazing activities until appeals and litigation are resolved, which could take years.

    Andy Kerr, adviser for WildEarth Guardians, which frequently challenges federal grazing decisions, said permit terms should not be extended, particularly when most grazing allotments in the West do not meet federal standards for rangeland health.

    But stock growers groups say the Labrador bill is critical to alleviate the bureaucratic delays and legal threats of ranching on public lands.

    “The uncertainty surrounding the current grazing permit renewal process has forced me to spend more time trying to comply with rules and regulations rather than improving my herd and managing the range,” said John Falen, president of the Public Lands Council, who ranches on public lands.

    The other two bills to be reviewed are:

    • H.R. 1818, by Rep. Howard McKeon (R-Calif.), to designate Mount Andrea Lawrence.
    • H.R. 2984, by Rep. Michael Michaud (D-Maine), to designate certain federal lands within the Cross Island National Wildlife Refuge and the Petit Manan National Wildlife Refuge, part of the Maine Coastal Islands National Wildlife Refuge Complex, in Lincoln County, Hancock County and Washington County, Maine, as wilderness.

    Schedule: The hearing is Thursday, March 29, at 10 a.m. in 1324 Longworth.

    Witnesses: TBA.

  • Sun-News report
    Posted: 04/27/2012 03:43:16 PM MDT

    Click photo to enlarge
    Steve Pearce

    LAS CRUCES — U.S. Rep. Steve Pearce, R-NM, will attend a congressional forum on the proposals for the protection of the Organ Mountains, 3 p.m. Friday at the Farm and Ranch Museum, 4100 Dripping Springs Road.

    The forum is open to the public, and will include the opportunity for public comment.

    Pearce has introduced H.R. 4334, which would create the Organ Mountains National Monument. That bill is separate and apart from the effort to establish the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument through executive action. Advocates for that monument have argued that the Pearce bill, which is limited to just the Organs, does not go far enough in protecting historic and scenic areas in Doña Ana County, and weakens existing protections.

    “I have recently introduced H.R. 4334, legislation to designate the Organ Mountains as a national monument,” Pearce said in a prepared statement. “This allows for the protection of the land, but still gives room for public input by going through the legislative process. Additionally, it is not as restrictive as wilderness designation. The proposed lands have been deemed unsuitable for wilderness protection. While I believe that my legislation is the best solution, I look forward to hearing all of the proposals and hearing questions and concerns in an open forum with the public.”

  • Sun-News report
    Posted: 04/27/2012 03:43:16 PM MDT

    Click photo to enlarge
    Steve Pearce

    LAS CRUCES — U.S. Rep. Steve Pearce, R-NM, will attend a congressional forum on the proposals for the protection of the Organ Mountains, 3 p.m. Friday at the Farm and Ranch Museum, 4100 Dripping Springs Road.

    The forum is open to the public, and will include the opportunity for public comment.

    Pearce has introduced H.R. 4334, which would create the Organ Mountains National Monument. That bill is separate and apart from the effort to establish the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument through executive action. Advocates for that monument have argued that the Pearce bill, which is limited to just the Organs, does not go far enough in protecting historic and scenic areas in Doña Ana County, and weakens existing protections.

    “I have recently introduced H.R. 4334, legislation to designate the Organ Mountains as a national monument,” Pearce said in a prepared statement. “This allows for the protection of the land, but still gives room for public input by going through the legislative process. Additionally, it is not as restrictive as wilderness designation. The proposed lands have been deemed unsuitable for wilderness protection. While I believe that my legislation is the best solution, I look forward to hearing all of the proposals and hearing questions and concerns in an open forum with the public.”

  • Brian Merchant
    treehugger.com
    September 18, 2012 

    Arctic-bound oil companies like Shell and Gazprom are probably going to speed the melt of sea ice even faster than previously anticipated—that’s ice, I remind you, that’s already rapidly shrinking from the effects global warming.

    Yes, we may behold the first Arctic-free summer in just four years, but the oil, gas and shipping companies planning to exploit the region are slated to make everything even worse.

    Reuters reports:

    Local pollution in the Arctic from shipping and oil and gas industries, which have expanded in the region due to a thawing of sea ice caused by global warming, could further accelerate that thaw, experts say.

    The United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) said there was an urgent need to calculate risks of local pollutants such as soot, or “black carbon”, in the Arctic. Soot darkens ice, making it soak up more of the sun’s heat and quickening a melt.

    So it’s not just a warming climate that’s beating back the ice floes; it’s the soot generated from myriad industrial operations in the region. Of course, as the ice melts, more and more of those industries will set up shop in Alaska, Canada, Greenland, etc, and spew more and more soot onto the embattled ice.

    Good thing then, that whenever the U.N. says there’s an “urgent need” to do something, world leaders rush to attention.

  • By Demis Foster, NM Wild Santa Fe Director
    Albuquerque Journal, Letter to the Editor
    April 17, 2012

    THERE IS a reason that Chaco Canyon is honored as a World Heritage site. It is one of the unique, culturally significant landscapes in the world. It is also still considered a sacred site by virtually all of the pueblos as well as the Navajos.

    In Leslie Linthicum’s recent article, “Tightening Down on Chaco Visits,” she points out that in the park’s new management plan they would require visitors to watch an orientation video before entering the park loop.

    This is called “education.” I believe educating the public is a good thing and I am happy to be inconvenienced for a few minutes if it means people will understand just how fragile this environment really is.

    Linthicum states that Chaco is currently “free to unencumbered rambling.” This is not the case. You can’t “hike over hill and dale” wherever you please in the park. There are already restrictions in place to stay on established trails and out of sensitive areas. And there is good reason for this. Even the most well-intentioned appreciator of Chaco can create damage to fragile areas by tromping through ancient ruins “unencumbered.”

    Once-ancient walls have been carved, painted or walked on over and over. The integrity of that structure is compromised and will never be as it once was. I applaud the Park Service for having the foresight and vision to look toward the future as they revise their management plan because Chaco is worth it. We have a responsibility to future generations.

  • By Demis Foster, NM Wild Santa Fe Director
    Albuquerque Journal, Letter to the Editor
    April 17, 2012

    THERE IS a reason that Chaco Canyon is honored as a World Heritage site. It is one of the unique, culturally significant landscapes in the world. It is also still considered a sacred site by virtually all of the pueblos as well as the Navajos.

    In Leslie Linthicum’s recent article, “Tightening Down on Chaco Visits,” she points out that in the park’s new management plan they would require visitors to watch an orientation video before entering the park loop.

    This is called “education.” I believe educating the public is a good thing and I am happy to be inconvenienced for a few minutes if it means people will understand just how fragile this environment really is.

    Linthicum states that Chaco is currently “free to unencumbered rambling.” This is not the case. You can’t “hike over hill and dale” wherever you please in the park. There are already restrictions in place to stay on established trails and out of sensitive areas. And there is good reason for this. Even the most well-intentioned appreciator of Chaco can create damage to fragile areas by tromping through ancient ruins “unencumbered.”

    Once-ancient walls have been carved, painted or walked on over and over. The integrity of that structure is compromised and will never be as it once was. I applaud the Park Service for having the foresight and vision to look toward the future as they revise their management plan because Chaco is worth it. We have a responsibility to future generations.

  • Date: December 14, 2012
    Contact: Blake Androff (DOI) 202-208-6416

    TAOS, NM – As part of President Obama’s America’s Great Outdoors program, on Saturday, December 15, 2012, Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar will host a public listening session to explore the best path forward to preserve and protect the Río Grande del Norte in northern New Mexico. Secretary Salazar will be joined by U.S. Representative Ben Ray Luján and Bureau of Land Management State Director for New Mexico Jesse Juen.

    “I look forward to hearing from New Mexicans about what the Río Grande del Norte means to their community and what their vision is for its future,” said Secretary Salazar. “Public lands provide huge economic benefits to communities through tourism and outdoor recreation, and the Río Grande del Norte is no exception. We need to ensure that generations to come have the opportunity to experience this iconic western landscape.”

    Located about 30 miles northwest of Taos, the Río Grande del Norte contains stretches of the Río Grande Gorge and Ute Mountain, which rises from the Taos valley floor. The area is known for its spectacular landscapes and recreational opportunities – like rafting, fishing and hiking – and serves as important habitat for many birds and wildlife. The Bureau of Land Management currently manages more than 240,000 acres in the region; in recent years, Senators Jeff Bingaman and Tom Udall and Representatives Ben Ray Luján and Martin Heinrich have introduced legislation to protect the Río Grande del Norte as a national conservation area.

    Credentialed news media members are invited to attend the public meeting.

    WHO: Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar
    Congressman Ben Ray Luján
    Bureau of Land Management State Director for New Mexico Jesse Juen
    WHAT: Public meeting on Northern New Mexico’s Río Grande del Norte
    WHEN: Saturday, December 15, 2012 @ 11:00 a.m. MDT
    WHERE: Kachina Lodge, Resort Hotel and Meeting Center
    413 Paseo del
    Pueblo Norte, Taos, NM 87571
  • Date: December 14, 2012
    Contact: Blake Androff (DOI) 202-208-6416

    TAOS, NM – As part of President Obama’s America’s Great Outdoors program, on Saturday, December 15, 2012, Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar will host a public listening session to explore the best path forward to preserve and protect the Río Grande del Norte in northern New Mexico. Secretary Salazar will be joined by U.S. Representative Ben Ray Luján and Bureau of Land Management State Director for New Mexico Jesse Juen.

    “I look forward to hearing from New Mexicans about what the Río Grande del Norte means to their community and what their vision is for its future,” said Secretary Salazar. “Public lands provide huge economic benefits to communities through tourism and outdoor recreation, and the Río Grande del Norte is no exception. We need to ensure that generations to come have the opportunity to experience this iconic western landscape.”

    Located about 30 miles northwest of Taos, the Río Grande del Norte contains stretches of the Río Grande Gorge and Ute Mountain, which rises from the Taos valley floor. The area is known for its spectacular landscapes and recreational opportunities – like rafting, fishing and hiking – and serves as important habitat for many birds and wildlife. The Bureau of Land Management currently manages more than 240,000 acres in the region; in recent years, Senators Jeff Bingaman and Tom Udall and Representatives Ben Ray Luján and Martin Heinrich have introduced legislation to protect the Río Grande del Norte as a national conservation area.

    Credentialed news media members are invited to attend the public meeting.

    WHO: Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar
    Congressman Ben Ray Luján
    Bureau of Land Management State Director for New Mexico Jesse Juen
    WHAT: Public meeting on Northern New Mexico’s Río Grande del Norte
    WHEN: Saturday, December 15, 2012 @ 11:00 a.m. MDT
    WHERE: Kachina Lodge, Resort Hotel and Meeting Center
    413 Paseo del
    Pueblo Norte, Taos, NM 87571
  • Brian Merchant, Treehugger.com
    January 28, 2011

    In what wildlife conservationists are calling a dangerously unprecedented move, Montana Representative Denny Rehberg introduced two separate bills aimed at removing wolves from the endangered species list. This would enable the wolves to be hunted at will across the country — and biologists say that it could “set the stage for nationwide wolf eradication.” The Defenders of Wildlife noted that “Together, these bills would allow states to eliminate all wolves in the Northern Rockies, Great Lakes and Southwest, including the 42 Mexican wolves struggling for survival in New Mexico and Arizona.” As you’re likely aware, there are plenty of farmers, ranchers, and landowners across the Midwest who — for good reason — wouldn’t hesitate to hunt down or kill the remaining wolves that threaten their livestock and livelihoods. But we’re talking about the possible eradication of a species here — surely these bills are dangerous in their overreach.

    Speaking of dangerous prospects, if passed, these bills would indeed set a frightening precedent. It would mark the first time a single species was exempted from the Endangered Species Act — perhaps paving the way for other severely threatened species to be pulled from the endangered species list as well. And that’s a slippery slope nobody wants to inch towards.

    Rodger Schlickeisen, the president of Defenders of Wildlife, released a statement that included the following: “These bills set a terrible precedent that will open the flood gates to legislation to strip protections for any other species that a politician finds inconvenient to protect. Grizzly bears, salmon, whales, polar bears and Florida panthers are just a few that could be at serious risk. If enacted, this legislation would constitute one of the worst assaults on the [Endangered Species Act] since it became law in 1973. If we allow Congress to overrule the courts and usurp the authority of professional wildlife managers and expert biologists, there’s no telling where it will stop.”

    Wolves are already struggling for survival across the Midwest, and are, in the opinion of many conservationists, being perilously over-hunted. This bill could be the nail in their coffin.

  • Brian Merchant, Treehugger.com
    January 28, 2011

    In what wildlife conservationists are calling a dangerously unprecedented move, Montana Representative Denny Rehberg introduced two separate bills aimed at removing wolves from the endangered species list. This would enable the wolves to be hunted at will across the country — and biologists say that it could “set the stage for nationwide wolf eradication.” The Defenders of Wildlife noted that “Together, these bills would allow states to eliminate all wolves in the Northern Rockies, Great Lakes and Southwest, including the 42 Mexican wolves struggling for survival in New Mexico and Arizona.” As you’re likely aware, there are plenty of farmers, ranchers, and landowners across the Midwest who — for good reason — wouldn’t hesitate to hunt down or kill the remaining wolves that threaten their livestock and livelihoods. But we’re talking about the possible eradication of a species here — surely these bills are dangerous in their overreach.

    Speaking of dangerous prospects, if passed, these bills would indeed set a frightening precedent. It would mark the first time a single species was exempted from the Endangered Species Act — perhaps paving the way for other severely threatened species to be pulled from the endangered species list as well. And that’s a slippery slope nobody wants to inch towards.

    Rodger Schlickeisen, the president of Defenders of Wildlife, released a statement that included the following: “These bills set a terrible precedent that will open the flood gates to legislation to strip protections for any other species that a politician finds inconvenient to protect. Grizzly bears, salmon, whales, polar bears and Florida panthers are just a few that could be at serious risk. If enacted, this legislation would constitute one of the worst assaults on the [Endangered Species Act] since it became law in 1973. If we allow Congress to overrule the courts and usurp the authority of professional wildlife managers and expert biologists, there’s no telling where it will stop.”

    Wolves are already struggling for survival across the Midwest, and are, in the opinion of many conservationists, being perilously over-hunted. This bill could be the nail in their coffin.

  • By Esther Garcia / Mayor, Village of Questa and president, San Antonio del Rio Colorado Land Grant, NM Wild board member

    Sun, Jan 29, 2012, Journal North

    As a Hispanic leader in New Mexico, a state that leads the nation with a 46.3 percent Hispanic population, I am writing to convey my strong support for the protection of the environmentally, culturally, and historically rich landscapes of the San Luis Valley and Rio Grande Gorge that encompass the proposed Rio Grande del Norte National Conservation Area in Taos County. Hispano culture and presence in New Mexico is and has always been closely connected to our states rich public lands. These areas provide our families and communities with hunting, recreation, traditions and so much more. Throughout time, they have also brought travelers and tourists, and with them economic development. As such, protecting these natural treasures is an important priority to us, and to our future.

    Thanks to the leadership of Sens. Jeff Bingaman and Tom Udall, as well as Congressman Ben Ray Lujan, legislation has been introduced that would protect nearly 236,000 acres in north central New Mexico. The Rio Grande del Norte National Conservation Area Establishment Act also includes two wilderness areas – the 13,420-acre Cerro del Yuta Wilderness, including the iconic Ute Mountain, and the 8,000-acre Rio San Antonio Wilderness. This area includes some of New Mexico’s most spectacular landscapes, including the Rio Grande gorge – which at some places is a half mile wide across, dropping to the Rio Grande River 800 feet below, and is a vital migratory flyway for a number of bird species. In turn, our country would be so much richer preserving both the unique Southwestern landscape and its incredible Western history.

    Those of us with deep roots here appreciate that the protection of these landscapes preserves grazing within the National Conservation Area and specifically protects our right to hunt, fish and collect piñon nuts and firewood. It directs the Bureau of Land Management to protect the cultural, natural and scenic resources in the area, and protects rights granted under the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo. This measure will help ensure that these ancestral lands will remain for future generations to come.

    Lands like the Valle Vidal and the Latir and Wheeler Peak Wildernesses in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains have played large roles in Hispano life and culture throughout northern New Mexico’s history. Hunting and traditional gathering activities continue to this day, and bind generations of Hispano families together. Surging interest amongst Hispanic sportsmen also means more families are taking to our wilderness in pursuit of Rocky Mountain mule deer, blue grouse, and elk in Taos County.

    While New Mexico’s congressional delegation is working very hard to ensure that this bipartisan piece of legislation passes through Congress. Congress has proven itself to be incapable of moving any form of legislation, no matter how much local support exists back home. Fortunately, President Obama has the authority under the 1906 Antiquities Act to designate public lands as National Monuments when Congress is unwilling or unable to act. If Congress continues to operate in such a dysfunctional manner, then the president should use his authority under the Antiquities Act to protect places like the Rio Grande del Norte National Conservation Area.

    Recent polls demonstrate that New Mexicans strongly support protecting these lands, with the highest support amongst the Hispanic population and the community of Taos. I firmly believe now is the time for action to protect the unique Rio Grande del Norte National Conservation Area, and to secure our rich cultural heritage, natural resources, and economic potential of Northern New Mexico forever.

  • By Esther Garcia / Mayor, Village of Questa and president, San Antonio del Rio Colorado Land Grant, NM Wild board member

    Sun, Jan 29, 2012, Journal North

    As a Hispanic leader in New Mexico, a state that leads the nation with a 46.3 percent Hispanic population, I am writing to convey my strong support for the protection of the environmentally, culturally, and historically rich landscapes of the San Luis Valley and Rio Grande Gorge that encompass the proposed Rio Grande del Norte National Conservation Area in Taos County. Hispano culture and presence in New Mexico is and has always been closely connected to our states rich public lands. These areas provide our families and communities with hunting, recreation, traditions and so much more. Throughout time, they have also brought travelers and tourists, and with them economic development. As such, protecting these natural treasures is an important priority to us, and to our future.

    Thanks to the leadership of Sens. Jeff Bingaman and Tom Udall, as well as Congressman Ben Ray Lujan, legislation has been introduced that would protect nearly 236,000 acres in north central New Mexico. The Rio Grande del Norte National Conservation Area Establishment Act also includes two wilderness areas – the 13,420-acre Cerro del Yuta Wilderness, including the iconic Ute Mountain, and the 8,000-acre Rio San Antonio Wilderness. This area includes some of New Mexico’s most spectacular landscapes, including the Rio Grande gorge – which at some places is a half mile wide across, dropping to the Rio Grande River 800 feet below, and is a vital migratory flyway for a number of bird species. In turn, our country would be so much richer preserving both the unique Southwestern landscape and its incredible Western history.

    Those of us with deep roots here appreciate that the protection of these landscapes preserves grazing within the National Conservation Area and specifically protects our right to hunt, fish and collect piñon nuts and firewood. It directs the Bureau of Land Management to protect the cultural, natural and scenic resources in the area, and protects rights granted under the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo. This measure will help ensure that these ancestral lands will remain for future generations to come.

    Lands like the Valle Vidal and the Latir and Wheeler Peak Wildernesses in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains have played large roles in Hispano life and culture throughout northern New Mexico’s history. Hunting and traditional gathering activities continue to this day, and bind generations of Hispano families together. Surging interest amongst Hispanic sportsmen also means more families are taking to our wilderness in pursuit of Rocky Mountain mule deer, blue grouse, and elk in Taos County.

    While New Mexico’s congressional delegation is working very hard to ensure that this bipartisan piece of legislation passes through Congress. Congress has proven itself to be incapable of moving any form of legislation, no matter how much local support exists back home. Fortunately, President Obama has the authority under the 1906 Antiquities Act to designate public lands as National Monuments when Congress is unwilling or unable to act. If Congress continues to operate in such a dysfunctional manner, then the president should use his authority under the Antiquities Act to protect places like the Rio Grande del Norte National Conservation Area.

    Recent polls demonstrate that New Mexicans strongly support protecting these lands, with the highest support amongst the Hispanic population and the community of Taos. I firmly believe now is the time for action to protect the unique Rio Grande del Norte National Conservation Area, and to secure our rich cultural heritage, natural resources, and economic potential of Northern New Mexico forever.

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