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2012

  • By J.R. Loga, The Taos News

    December 21, 2012

    Cisco Guevara is the kind of poster child conservationists dream of: A bearded river guide in a floppy black hat who has 400-year-old roots in the area and knows how to spin a yarn.

    On Saturday (Dec. 15), Guevara worked his charm on U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar in front of a crowd that came out to show fervent support for protecting a huge swath of northern Taos County.

    “I was probably only about 3 years old and I was looking into the kitchen sink,” Guevara told Salazar. “My dad had gone fishing and he was going to feed the whole clan — there were more than 10 of us — with two fish. They were huge. They were going over the edges of the sink. And I said, ‘Dad, where did these fish come from?’ ‘El Río Grande del Norte.’ And from then on, I always wanted to visit that magic place.”

    Guevara was one of around 50 people who spoke at the two-hour meeting, which was meant to gather public comment on a proposal to designate 236,000 remote acres in Taos and Río Arriba counties as a conservation area or national monument. Rep. Ben Ray Luján, D-NM. was on hand, as was Jesse Juen, state director for the U.S. Bureau of Land Management.

    Notice of Salazar’s visit was announced about 24 hours before the meeting began (Salazar’s staff said they were watching the weather to make sure they could make it), but word spread quickly and a standing-room-only audience of nearly 200 people showed up Saturday morning.

    The meeting room at the Kachina Lodge was overflowing with Taoseños of nearly every ilk — from artists, to tribal representatives, to hunters, rafters and a troop of uniformed Boy Scouts — all of whom came out to champion the idea.

    “We have Indian names for all these places here,” said Taos Pueblo Lt. Gov. Gilbert Suazo, pointing to landmarks on a giant map and reciting the Tiwa name for each. “All of those places are a part of a history, a part of our culture, a part of our tradition. So we are interested in having that area protected.”

    Questa Mayor Esther García spoke about the need to safeguard the land while respecting the historic activities of longtime Hispano residents. “For me, protecting El Río Grande del Norte is very important, but I also want to protect the traditional uses of land,” García said. “We are land grant heirs in New Mexico. Grazing is important. The fishing, the hunting, the herb gathering. Everything that has been traditional for my culture is very important to me.”

    Outfitter Stuart Wilde said he came to Saturday’s meeting as a scout leader, a local business owner and a lover of Northern New Mexico. “I encourage you to protect permanently the Río Grande del Norte, whether it’s via a national conservation area or a national monument,” Wilde told Salazar.

    After taking comments, Salazar called a vote, asking who was in favor of a presidential proclamation to establish a monument. Every hand in the audience was raised. No one spoke in opposition during the entire event, even after Salazar encouraged any dissenters to give their opinions.

    For months community members have lauded the idea of protecting the Río Grande del Norte, arguing that it will preserve a unique environmental and cultural heritage while serving as a tourist draw that will boost the local economy. But at the moment, it’s unclear what approach the federal government may take to accomplish that goal.

    The area — a desolate, volcanic plateau bordered on the east and west by mountains — is bisected by the Río Grande Gorge and is a a popular destination for sportsmen and outdoors enthusiasts.

    New Mexico’s congressional delegation has introduced bills in both the Senate and the House that would create the Río Grande del Norte National Conservation Area along with two adjacent wilderness areas. However, those bills have made little progress in Congress thanks to legislative deadlock in Washington, D.C.

    Salazar, a native of the San Luís Valley, told The Taos News after the meeting that he would be working on determining how best to get some sort of protection in place, be that through Congress or through a presidential action that would bypass the log jam.

    “It is a very special place and we’ll look at the appropriate ways of protecting it,” Salazar said.

    Salazar declined to give any specific timeline as to when he would offer his recommendations to the President or when a decision might be made.

    Obama established two national monuments this fall: César E. Chávez National Monument in California, and Chimney Rock National Monument in Colorado.

    The language included in the House and Senate bills would result in almost no immediate changes to the way the Río Grande del Norte area is currently managed. Existing grazing and woodcutting would continue, and mining north of Tres Piedras would be allowed to go on, through it could not expand. If adopted, the legislation dictates that no new road be built inside the conservation area boundaries.

    While there is no immediate threat of large-scale development, the bill would essentially stop future growth on public lands in the conservation area, with the idea of preserving the landscape for future generations.

    It’s not known whether a presidential proclamation would include the same language, though, based on Saturday’s hearing, many of the comments Salazar will now take to the president include similar stipulations.

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  • by Joe Pappalardo, American Way magazine

    The past is unearthed as our intrepid reporter hunts ruins in Big Bend, America’s largest forgotten national park.

    It’s always better to look down instead of up when hiking through the Chihuahuan Desert. Still, my eyes are scanning the terrain 15 feet ahead instead of what’s directly below — and I pay the price by walking into the branches of a desert whitethorn bush. Inch-long needles puncture my jeans and spear my calf.

    Such are the perils of hunting ruins at Big Bend National Park, located along the Mexican border in deep Southwest Texas. I’m braving the 101-degree heat in search of a car: a Model T that’s sat neglected in this foreboding land since the 1940s. The location of the vehicle, left behind by the Starr family, is not marked on any park map, and no trail leads to it.

    The undulating hills and mottled canvas of brush and rock hamper my view. Continually scanning the desert hoping for a glimpse leaves me unaware of my more immediate surroundings, and I’m constantly dodging cactus, whitethorn, sotol and lechuguilla plants, which have leaves with tips sharp enough to pierce leather and internal fibers strong enough to sew through it.

    The Starrs were willful people, just the type to thrive on the land. Family lore states that Solomon Albert Starr and his wife, Mae, married in Palo Pinto County in northern Texas. The family moved to West Texas in 1907, according to park archaeologists. For a time, Solomon worked at a drugstore in the town of Alpine, where he was also a community figure, serving briefly as mayor and becoming involved with the Commercial Club, a forerunner of the town’s chamber of commerce. In 1911, the Starrs moved to Marathon, Texas, where Solomon eventually opened a drugstore. In the 1920s, Solomon tried his hand at ranching, and sometime later sold the ranch for another when he, Mae and their children moved to the Tornillo Flat of Big Bend. But by 1944, the ranch was empty and the land sold. Starr left his dreams of operating a ranch to rot in the desert and returned to working at a drugstore in another Texas city called Sweetwater.

    Solomon Starr was not the only one seduced by the promise of Big Bend’s vastness. With so much available land, it seemed the perfect spot for brave entrepreneurs to establish ranches, mines and even a health spa. Now the area is littered with their failed attempts at colonization.

    The area’s deep remoteness and extreme environment repelled permanent settlement, but those qualities are what make Big Bend a priceless national park today. The park can be cool during fall and winter, and spring brings blooms of gorgeous flowers. But summer brings only heat and solitude. That’s when I’m here, and the 1,200-square-mile park generates feelings of proprietorship with the uninterrupted isolation.

    I know the remains of the Starr family ranch are located somewhere off of U.S. 385, in between the Persimmon Gap entrance and Panther Junction. There is no park plaque or trail, so I start my search to the west of the road.

    An hour later, there is still no sign of human habitation. The sun beats down on my neck and head, making sunblock feel more like cooking grease. I crest hill after hill, scanning the desert with binoculars. Nothing. I can’t see the white speck of my rental car from the bottom of the swells, and without that landmark, the desert seems endlessly repeating. I now understand why people who are lost in the desert walk in circles until they expire.

    A mania grips me, a distant echo of the stubbornness shared by the Spaniards who crossed here seeking El Dorado. The big discovery may lie over the next hill, so you climb it, swallow your disappointment, harden your resolve and climb the next. Presumed clues conflate into omens: a rusted-thin metal can, a shard of broken glass, a piece of petrified wood, complete with scorch marks from what I assume was a campfire decades ago.

    I look up and see the sky bruised by storm clouds, bringing welcome relief from the heat. Curtains of rain in the distance are moving my way fast. A stab of pale white lightning flicks across the sky, surprisingly close. I recall that bolts can stretch more than a mile before striking ground — and it occurs to me that the wood may have been set ablaze by lightning, not Starr family ranch hands.

    By the time I make it back to the road, the first drops of ice-cold rain are falling around me and thunder is booming above. The storm arrives with heavy winds and hail that sounds like gravel on the rental car’s roof. Now I need shelter as well as information. I can get both at the Chisos Basin, a cluster of peaks at the heart of the park. Like the earliest humans, I head to the mountains for safe haven.

    The rainstorm peters out as I drive up the winding road, climbing 5,400 feet to reach the Chisos Mountains Lodge. The only hotel in the park, the lodge is located in the shadows of several peaks, including the highest in the park, Emory Peak (7,800 feet). I am only half surprised to see a small black bear — a 2-year-old male, hungry from a long hibernation and lean from years of drought — in the parking lot. Two Japanese children pose in front of it for a picture as it sniffs around on the ground, seeking berries and food left by humans.

    The trees decorating the Chisos Basin are a welcome change from the desert bushes, knee-high shrubs and cacti. After the last ice age, the area climate changed, resulting in a forested mountain “sky island” in the Chihuahuan Desert. Now the dry land below is dominated by an endless carpet of thorny plants and hardy flowers, interrupted by tall eerie strands of green ocotillo, standing in green tangles like frozen undersea grass.

    The area’s deep remoteness and extreme environment repelled permanent settlement, but those qualities are what make Big Bend a priceless national park today.

    Park ranger Rob Dean is almost ready to begin his twilight talk, conducted on the lodge’s balcony. About 40 people are gathered to listen to Dean — who has worked as a ranger here on and off since the 1980s — as he spills factoids about the park. Behind him, jagged mountains frame the view of the desert at sunset. The gap between the basin’s mountain peaks, where the sun is slowly sinking, is called the Window.

    People have lived in the Chisos a long time. The mountains take their name after the Chizos Indians, as they are known — though they likely called themselves the Taquitatome —who lived in the area in the 16th century. The Chizos continued to live here through the 1700s, when they were displaced by Mescalero Apaches.

    This land was more habitable the longer one goes back in history. There are signs of prehistoric settlement all over Big Bend, traces of the small Archaic-era bands who eked out a life despite the heat, aridness and hostile wildlife. Archaeologists have found their campsites all over the park and cave art still decorates canyon walls near the Rio Grande and in the mountains. “This is a landscape that is inhospitable,” Dean says. “It is a place that man, or I should say modern man, avoided for years.”

    That changed in the 1800s when Mexicans and Americans tried to tame Big Bend, named after the crook in the Rio Grande where the park is located. “The common motive for people to move here? Profit,” says David Keller, senior project archaeologist at Sul Ross State University’s Center for Big Bend Studies in Alpine. “With cattle and quicksilver, it was a bonanza of an opportunity in the early days.”

    Ranchers and storekeepers tried to lay roots here, then mercury (aka quicksilver) miners, cotton farmers and health gurus a short time later. “Once the railroad was established through and Indians were no longer a threat — both of these things occurred in the early 1880s — settlers came for the chance of a new life and economic prosperity,” says Andy Cloud, director of the Center for Big Bend Studies. “The land seemed immense and full of promise. Drought years followed, and that tempered things.”

    Along with drought, the land was afflicted with cattle blights, banditry associated with the revolution in Mexico and decreased demand for mercury. By the 1940s, things were so dire that the government was able to close deals to buy land from 3,000 owners in just nine months, paying $2 an acre to each homesteader. (Today you can buy land just outside the park for about $250 an acre.) “I don’t think the National Park Service had any concerns about the local economy,” Keller says, “but certainly a lot of people who were instrumental in getting the park established did.”

    Though Big Bend is the same size as Yosemite, it gets fewer than a tenth of the visitors, with 350,000 people visiting Big Bend in a typical year compared to Yosemite’s 4 million.

    Indeed, the park is not much of a tourist draw: A three-hour drive south of the Midland International Airport, it is one of the least visited of the continental United States’ megaparks. Though Big Bend is the same size as Yosemite, it gets fewer than a tenth of the visitors, with 350,000 people visiting Big Bend in a typical year compared to Yosemite’s 4 million. “After the government bought the park, tourism was supposed to be the industry that brought people,” Dean says. “We’re still waiting.”

    The tattered remnants of human colonization stand in stark contrast to the permanent grandeur of the towering mountains and expansive desert. In an odd way, the park shares a post-mankind feel found in empty places like Tikal or Chernobyl.

    Most of Big Bend’s ruins are not hidden. Visitors can spot some of the park’s best-preserved remains from the Ross Maxwell Scenic Drive, which extends 43 miles from the Basin to the Santa Elena Canyon. There may not be the same sense of discovery that comes with finding an unmarked site, but these well-tended remnants paint a picture of the community that existed here. Some of the sites still have functioning water-drawing windmills, attracting wildlife and offering a refreshing oasis in a desert setting.

    James Sublett came to the area in 1913. He and his business partner, Albert Dorgon, were among the first Big Bend settlers who dared to establish large-scale farms on the Rio Grande flood plain. The Dorgan-Sublett homestead still remains in the form of a ruined complex of adobe buildings, including a fireplace made of petrified wood that, from the road, you can see standing sentinel on a hilltop.

    It’s presumed that the Sublett family and their ranch hands got fresh produce from the neighboring Terlingua­ Abajo farm. Stone foundations and adobe-walled buildings remain at the site, located off the scenic drive. I turn onto the primitive, unpaved Old Maverick Road, closed due to washouts just the day before, to find the site. While passable to most vehicles, this road tends to be rough; the 13 miles usually takes around an hour to drive. Some sections are washed out; others are pitted with holes or disrupted by rocks. The turnoff to ­Terlingua Abajo itself is much worse.

    My rental car — alas, no 4×4 — ambles along until the path becomes too battered to continue. I leave the vehicle behind and continue on foot, following the beaten-up road as it winds between rock-strewn foothills. The silence is interrupted only by birdcalls and the thumping of my own heartbeat.

    The coyote sees me before I see it. It’s big and healthy, a natural-born rabbit killer. We scare each other, and the animal scampers to the top of a hill overlooking the trail and pauses to look at me with a green-yellow stare. We lock eyes for a brief moment, and it silently lopes away. I decide to walk on, but with a large rock in my hand.

    I reach the Terlingua Abajo campgrounds, and the first of the collection of ruins. The farms here fed miners and ranchers from the 1900s to the 1940s. Terlingua Creek once hosted cottonwood trees, but they have all been lost to the axes of the ranchers.

    Wandering through, I recognize a familiar campsite. I camped here for a week, 12 years ago. In my mind’s eye, I can still see the cluster of tents nestled against a gently sloping hill. It’s been a decade since I spoke to the friends who were with me, but all of a sudden they feel close again. Some of the ghosts in Big Bend are the ones you leave behind.

    I have a car to find before I leave Big Bend.

    Dean gives me more accurate directions off U.S. 385 to help me locate the remains, but even armed with those, I feel a twang of doubt after 30 minutes of searching. At an earlier point in the trip, I had also gone out in search of an unmarked cemetery I’d heard stories about, but my attempt to find it had been stymied by flies and ­hyper­aggressive tiger mosquitoes that rose in thick clouds, and their painful attacks left me once again running for my car. No objective is guaranteed here.

    The afternoon heat is rising, and I feel bad for the loafing jackrabbits that I startle into mad dashes. I know coyotes can catch these at a sprint, and when I see the speed of its prey, I’m glad the coyote I encountered decided to ignore me.

    There are a handful of hills left to explore. I figure I’ll head in the direction of the last rabbit; it’s as good a guess as any. The wind sighs, waving the branches of the thorn bushes. I make my way up one hillside and down the other, then circle the base toward another slope. Then I see it: a sharp angle of something man-made. It’s the rusted rear of an automobile. The elation is sudden and overwhelming. I fist-bump the sky like a marathon runner at the finish line. The object of a quest is not as important as its successful conclusion.

    The Model T’s body is a rusted rectangle. Moving around to the front, I see the metal headlights, their glass long since broken. The tires and engine are gone, but metal wheel wells still curve with rugged stubbornness. The steering column juts proudly from the cab.

    Some of the ghosts in Big Bend are the ones you leave behind.
    Around the rectangle of stone are signs of an abandoned life. Broken teacups and glass jugs lay scattered in the dry dirt. Curls of barbed wire tangle here and there; tins of food opened and consumed decades ago.

    The Starrs left a mess behind, but the garbage is now classified as artifact. I resist the temptation to violate park rules and take anything from the find. Even though I feel like I own a piece of the unmarked site, I didn’t earn the right. These remains belong here. If my time in Big Bend taught me anything, it’s that any such hallmarks should be left alone. They are more than totems to the bravery and resilience of intrepid settlers; they also serve as testimonials to the fierceness of the land that rejected them.

    Hunting for History
    There are several road-accessible ruins to visit in Big Bend National Park, but their accessibility depends on what kind of vehicle you’re driving — and how ambitious you’re feeling.

    Adventure Level: Easy
    Homer Wilson Blue Creek Ranch
    This well-preserved and easy-to-access ruin sits along the Ross Maxwell Scenic Drive. The ranch is positioned at the foot of a dramatic abutment, to the southwest of the Chisos Basin. A quarter-mile east off the road, viewers get a fine view of the spread 90 feet below, including the bunkhouse and foreman’s quarters. A 15-minute hike along an unpaved but well-worn path reveals details of the construction, including reeds used for ceilings and stone from a nearby canyon.

    Adventure Level: Moderate
    Hot Springs
    In 1909, J.O. Langford came to the region in poor health and found the dry air and natural hot springs rejuvenated him. He opened a resort along this scenic section of the Rio Grande, a scant few feet from Mexico. Langford left for 14 years because of the revolution, but he returned in 1927 and remained until the 1940s when the state bought the land for the park. Several intact cottages and a store remain. The stone square of a functional, spring-fed bath is also there for those who want to take a dip in 105-degree water and warm mud. The bath is one of the attractions on the mile-long Hot Springs Loop trail — visitors are also treated to Indian paintings on the rock walls, towering reeds and vistas of the Rio Grande. The catch: The area is accessed only by a thin, winding vehicular road that, while not terribly bumpy, has several portions with gut-wrenching 10-foot drops to one side (with no railing) and shards of rocks jutting out on the other.

    Adventure Level: Hard
    Mariscal Mine
    Of all the industries that tried to take hold in Big Bend, mercury mining was among the most profitable, with mines in this area supplying a majority of the U.S. product from 1900 to 1950. Miners — mostly Mexican nationals seeking economic improvement — scraped cinnabar ore in narrow underground mines; the ore was refined on-site to obtain mercury. But be forewarned: The primitive road used to get to the mine is only accessible by a high-clearance vehicle, and the stone walls at the site are lousy with mercury. Remains of furnaces and condensing chambers are spread over 2,560 acres.

    Joe Pappalardo is a senior editor at Popular Mechanics and the author of the nonfiction book Sunflowers: The Secret History.

  • By BERNIE KRAUSE, The New York Times

    Glen Ellen, Calif.

    YEARS ago, when selective logging was first introduced, a community near an old-growth forest in the Sierra Nevada was assured that the removal of a few trees here and there would have no impact on the area’s wildlife. Based on the logging company’s guarantees, the local residents agreed to the operation. I was skeptical, however, and requested permission to record the sounds of the habitat before and after the logging.

    On June 21, 1988, I recorded a rich dawn chorus in California’s pristine Lincoln Meadow. It was a biome replete with the voices of Lincoln’s sparrows, MacGillivray’s warblers, Williamson’s sapsuckers, pileated woodpeckers, golden-crowned kinglets, robins and grosbeaks, as well as squirrels, spring peepers and numerous insects. I captured them all.

    When I returned a year later, nothing appeared to have changed at first glance. No stumps or debris — just conifers and lush understory. But to the ear — and to the recorder — the difference was shocking. I’ve returned 15 times since then, and even years later, the density and diversity of voices are still lost. There is a muted hush, broken only by the sound of an occasional sparrow, raptor, raven or sapsucker. The numinous richness of the original biophony is gone.

    Lesson: While a picture may be worth a thousand words, a soundscape is worth a thousand pictures.

    A soundscape contains three basic sources: the geophony, which includes all nonbiological natural sounds like wind or ocean waves; the biophony, which embraces the biological, wild, nonhuman sounds that emanate from environments; and the anthrophony — man-made sounds, commonly referred to as noise.

    Soundscapes reveal many stories about the world’s habitats, illuminating the vital signs of life at one end of the spectrum and the effects of human noise at the other. In fit habitats, the biophony shows cohesion between all of its acoustic sources. In other words, the mating and territorial calls essential to each species’ survival don’t get masked or drowned out by competing sounds. Insects, reptiles, amphibians, birds and mammals establish their own “bandwidth niches,” which can be expressed as frequency (from the lowest to the highest sounds) and temporally (as when one creature vocalizes, followed by another, like exchanges between the chestnut-winged babbler and the Malaysian eared nightjar calling for mates in Borneo).

    Graphic displays called spectrograms are used to illustrate the organization of those sounds, with each creature’s voice showing a distinctive place in the chorus — an arrangement so precise that it often resembles a musical score. To the trained ear, those expressions are experienced much like instruments in an orchestra.

    What happens when this orchestra is disrupted by the anthrophony: chain saws, leaf blowers or highway traffic? If an indiscriminate sound like a loud motorcycle competes with the stridulation of an insect, the croak of a frog or the song of a bird, the affected animal may no longer be able to send its signal to mates or competitors. The voices of creatures in the choir may be drowned out. And mates and competitors will no longer be able to hear them. The integrity of the biophony is compromised.

    (Some of those effects you can’t hear. A 2001 study of elk and wolves in national parks found that snowmobile noise raised the levels of stress hormones in their feces and that the levels returned to normal concentrations when the intrusive din was absent.)

    Anything that destroys habitat — mining, pollution, deforestation and global warming — disrupts the biosphere. Mining reminds me of Aldo Leopold’s sage warning that if you’re going to tinker with nature, you’d better keep all the parts. In Northern California, where my wife and I live, spring occurs — according to my records — nearly two weeks earlier than it did 20 years ago. As the climate has warmed, we hear fewer Pacific tree frogs croaking in late winter and fewer birds in spring — likely because of shifts in food sources.

    Too little research has been done in the field of biophonics, and my personal recordings are neither comprehensive nor the results of controlled experiments. But the differences between healthy and damaged soundscapes are clear to anyone who pays attention.

    If you listen to a damaged soundscape — an expression of infirmity or extinction — the sense of desolation extends far beyond mere silence. The community has been altered, and organisms have been destroyed, lost their habitat or been left to re-establish their places in the spectrum. As a result, some voices are gone entirely, while others aggressively compete to establish a new place in the increasingly disjointed chorus. In the damaged forests of Washington State and California in the summer, I have heard white-crowned sparrows learning new syntax, adjusting their voices to accommodate for the acoustic shifts in the biophony.

    Still, it is from the intact creature choruses that the story of our relationship to the natural world is revealed. We dismiss the loss of those narratives at our peril. Listen. The ear never lies.

    The poet Robert Hass cautioned in his poem “After Goethe”: “The birds are silent in the woods./Just wait: Soon enough/You will be quiet too.”

    Bernie Krause is a musician, naturalist and the author of “The Great Animal Orchestra.”

  • By Don Patterson / For the Silver City Sun-News
    4/29/2012

    For years now, we have seen a variety of inaccurate and often intentionally misleading statements made by those who oppose any meaningful land conservation in Doña Ana County. Now that a broad coalition of historians, veterans, community leaders, sportsmen and more have come together to ask for the establishment of the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument in Doña Ana County, the self-interested opposition is at it again.

    In Jerry Schickedanz’ recent guest column, he makes a string of cynically misleading statements about what a new national monument would mean in Doña Ana County. His organization and their main partner, the Las Cruces Tea Party, have once again missed the mark, and are espousing extreme rhetoric to try and scare good people away from a truly historic opportunity. Ironically, as Mr. Schickedanz and the Tea Party try to cast fear for what a monument would mean in Doña Ana County, they have simultaneously proceeded to endorse Rep. Pearce’s national monument for the Organ Mountains. That glaring “double-speak” aside, here are some facts about how a new monument here would be managed for all the lands in Doña Ana County:

    The Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument would be managed by the BLM, not the Park Service.

    Hunting would absolutely be allowed in a new monument and continue just as it is today. This would be a prime benefit of BLM management and the fact that wildlife oversight remains with the NM
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    Department of Game and Fish.

    Grazing of livestock would be permitted and continue in the monument

    Border Patrol would continue to perform its mission in the monument

    Cars and other motorized vehicles would be allowed in the monument on designated routes

    Of course, the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument would also protect some of the most unique Chihuahuan Desert landscapes and American and pre-American history in the United States. The monument would protect places like Billy the Kid’s Outlaw Rock, over 22 miles of the Butterfield Stagecoach Trail, thousands of petroglyph and other archeological sites, Apollo Mission astronaut training sites and World War II Aerial Targets, to name just a few. Geologically, the monument would protect unique volcanic craters and lava flows, stunning canyons and cliffs, and rare Chihuahuan desert grasslands. Most of these rare resources are found outside the Organ Mountains, and must also be included for protection.

    Unsurprisingly, there is no mention in Mr. Schickedanz’s letter of the economic benefits that a national monument for the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks would mean to Las Cruces. Increased tourism and usage of area lodging, restaurants, and services are just the tip of the iceberg. Protecting and promoting our Organ Mountains and Desert Peaks, and their incredible scenic beauty, history and culture, and wildlife habitat will create dozens of new reasons for families, retirees, and businesses to come to Doña Ana County.

    There’s an old expression that says “you are entitled to your opinion, but not your own set of facts.” It’s time for conservation opponents to quit trying to confuse and alarm folks with inaccurate information. We can disagree on whether or not certain policies are best for us, but let’s all stand up to those who are willing to constantly misstate the truth just to try and keep these areas from being protected.

    By creating the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument, we create a true win-win for everyone in Doña Ana County. Whether or not Mr. Schickedanz, Congressman Steve Pearce, and the Tea Party get on board is their decision, but our community can finally protect, and promote, our spectacular Organ Mountains and Desert Peaks natural treasures. It’s time we do so.

    Don Patterson lives in Las Cruces and is vice president of the Rio Grande chapter of Back Country Horseman

  • By Don Patterson / For the Silver City Sun-News
    4/29/2012

    For years now, we have seen a variety of inaccurate and often intentionally misleading statements made by those who oppose any meaningful land conservation in Doña Ana County. Now that a broad coalition of historians, veterans, community leaders, sportsmen and more have come together to ask for the establishment of the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument in Doña Ana County, the self-interested opposition is at it again.

    In Jerry Schickedanz’ recent guest column, he makes a string of cynically misleading statements about what a new national monument would mean in Doña Ana County. His organization and their main partner, the Las Cruces Tea Party, have once again missed the mark, and are espousing extreme rhetoric to try and scare good people away from a truly historic opportunity. Ironically, as Mr. Schickedanz and the Tea Party try to cast fear for what a monument would mean in Doña Ana County, they have simultaneously proceeded to endorse Rep. Pearce’s national monument for the Organ Mountains. That glaring “double-speak” aside, here are some facts about how a new monument here would be managed for all the lands in Doña Ana County:

    The Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument would be managed by the BLM, not the Park Service.

    Hunting would absolutely be allowed in a new monument and continue just as it is today. This would be a prime benefit of BLM management and the fact that wildlife oversight remains with the NM
    Advertisement
    Department of Game and Fish.

    Grazing of livestock would be permitted and continue in the monument

    Border Patrol would continue to perform its mission in the monument

    Cars and other motorized vehicles would be allowed in the monument on designated routes

    Of course, the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument would also protect some of the most unique Chihuahuan Desert landscapes and American and pre-American history in the United States. The monument would protect places like Billy the Kid’s Outlaw Rock, over 22 miles of the Butterfield Stagecoach Trail, thousands of petroglyph and other archeological sites, Apollo Mission astronaut training sites and World War II Aerial Targets, to name just a few. Geologically, the monument would protect unique volcanic craters and lava flows, stunning canyons and cliffs, and rare Chihuahuan desert grasslands. Most of these rare resources are found outside the Organ Mountains, and must also be included for protection.

    Unsurprisingly, there is no mention in Mr. Schickedanz’s letter of the economic benefits that a national monument for the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks would mean to Las Cruces. Increased tourism and usage of area lodging, restaurants, and services are just the tip of the iceberg. Protecting and promoting our Organ Mountains and Desert Peaks, and their incredible scenic beauty, history and culture, and wildlife habitat will create dozens of new reasons for families, retirees, and businesses to come to Doña Ana County.

    There’s an old expression that says “you are entitled to your opinion, but not your own set of facts.” It’s time for conservation opponents to quit trying to confuse and alarm folks with inaccurate information. We can disagree on whether or not certain policies are best for us, but let’s all stand up to those who are willing to constantly misstate the truth just to try and keep these areas from being protected.

    By creating the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument, we create a true win-win for everyone in Doña Ana County. Whether or not Mr. Schickedanz, Congressman Steve Pearce, and the Tea Party get on board is their decision, but our community can finally protect, and promote, our spectacular Organ Mountains and Desert Peaks natural treasures. It’s time we do so.

    Don Patterson lives in Las Cruces and is vice president of the Rio Grande chapter of Back Country Horseman

  • By Martin Heinrich / For the Las Cruces Sun-News
    04/03/2012

    For more than a century, the Antiquities Act has given American presidents the authority to protect some of our nation’s most important and threatened places. Across New Mexico, we see the benefit of the Antiquities Act — Bandelier National Monument, Carlsbad Caverns National Park, White Sands National Monument, and El Morro National Monument to name just a few. Research done late last year by the Green Chamber of Commerce shows that New Mexico’s 10 national monuments established through the Antiquities Act account for 1.3 million annual tourist visits and $54 million in annual tourist spending that supports 1,061 New Mexico jobs.

    One place in New Mexico deserving of such protection is the proposed Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument in Doña Ana County. For months now, I have heard from residents and elected officials in the city of Las Cruces and Doña Ana County asking for help with their efforts to protect these southwestern natural treasures. City councilors, county commissioners, and the mayor of Las Cruces, Ken Miyagishima, have implored me to seek permanent protection. In addition, organizations as diverse as the Hispano Chamber of Commerce de Las Cruces, the League of Women Voters, and the Southwest Consolidated Sportsmen all support a comprehensive approach to preserving Doña Ana County’s wild lands.

    Only the president of the United States has the authority to use the Antiquities Act to designate a new national monument, and today I join a rising chorus of New Mexicans by asking President Barack Obama to designate the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument.

    This proposed monument includes part of the original route of the Camino Real de Tierra Adentro, which took settlers and traders from Mexico City through Las Cruces and continuing north all the way to Ohkay Owingeh Pueblo. For more than 300 years, this road served as the sole route from Mexico City into New Mexico. Some of the most vivid characters in New Mexico’s history were active in this area, including Geronimo and Billy the Kid. The Butterfield Stagecoach Route ran right though the Sierra de las Uvas Mountains, which also contain some of the most distinctive Native American petroglyphs and pictographs in the Southwest. The Organ Mountains continue to provide critical cultural resources for the growing Mesilla Valley population.

    The mountain ranges in the proposed monument include some of the most important wild game habitat in New Mexico. Mule deer, mountain lion, dove, quail, and many other species call the Sierra de las Uvas home. The Potrillo Mountains are especially significant with their ecological links to northern Mexico, and the Organ Mountains provide critical water resources to local wildlife. As proposed, the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument proclamation would make access by sportsmen a central part of the area’s management and protection in perpetuity. That would ensure that when my sons are my age, they will be able to enjoy hunting for mule deer in the Las Uvas, or quail in the Robledos.

    Because of their proximity to the fast-growing Las Cruces metro area, these places are threatened by increased development pressures, invasive species, and off-road vehicle abuse. By designating these areas as a new national monument, we can make sure that they are protected for us and future generations of New Mexicans to enjoy.

    I hope you will join me in urging the president to make southern New Mexico the home of America’s newest national monument.

    Martin Heinrich, a Democrat, represents New Mexico District 1 in the U.S. House of Representatives and is a candidate for U.S. Senate.

  • By Martin Heinrich / For the Las Cruces Sun-News
    04/03/2012

    For more than a century, the Antiquities Act has given American presidents the authority to protect some of our nation’s most important and threatened places. Across New Mexico, we see the benefit of the Antiquities Act — Bandelier National Monument, Carlsbad Caverns National Park, White Sands National Monument, and El Morro National Monument to name just a few. Research done late last year by the Green Chamber of Commerce shows that New Mexico’s 10 national monuments established through the Antiquities Act account for 1.3 million annual tourist visits and $54 million in annual tourist spending that supports 1,061 New Mexico jobs.

    One place in New Mexico deserving of such protection is the proposed Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument in Doña Ana County. For months now, I have heard from residents and elected officials in the city of Las Cruces and Doña Ana County asking for help with their efforts to protect these southwestern natural treasures. City councilors, county commissioners, and the mayor of Las Cruces, Ken Miyagishima, have implored me to seek permanent protection. In addition, organizations as diverse as the Hispano Chamber of Commerce de Las Cruces, the League of Women Voters, and the Southwest Consolidated Sportsmen all support a comprehensive approach to preserving Doña Ana County’s wild lands.

    Only the president of the United States has the authority to use the Antiquities Act to designate a new national monument, and today I join a rising chorus of New Mexicans by asking President Barack Obama to designate the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument.

    This proposed monument includes part of the original route of the Camino Real de Tierra Adentro, which took settlers and traders from Mexico City through Las Cruces and continuing north all the way to Ohkay Owingeh Pueblo. For more than 300 years, this road served as the sole route from Mexico City into New Mexico. Some of the most vivid characters in New Mexico’s history were active in this area, including Geronimo and Billy the Kid. The Butterfield Stagecoach Route ran right though the Sierra de las Uvas Mountains, which also contain some of the most distinctive Native American petroglyphs and pictographs in the Southwest. The Organ Mountains continue to provide critical cultural resources for the growing Mesilla Valley population.

    The mountain ranges in the proposed monument include some of the most important wild game habitat in New Mexico. Mule deer, mountain lion, dove, quail, and many other species call the Sierra de las Uvas home. The Potrillo Mountains are especially significant with their ecological links to northern Mexico, and the Organ Mountains provide critical water resources to local wildlife. As proposed, the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument proclamation would make access by sportsmen a central part of the area’s management and protection in perpetuity. That would ensure that when my sons are my age, they will be able to enjoy hunting for mule deer in the Las Uvas, or quail in the Robledos.

    Because of their proximity to the fast-growing Las Cruces metro area, these places are threatened by increased development pressures, invasive species, and off-road vehicle abuse. By designating these areas as a new national monument, we can make sure that they are protected for us and future generations of New Mexicans to enjoy.

    I hope you will join me in urging the president to make southern New Mexico the home of America’s newest national monument.

    Martin Heinrich, a Democrat, represents New Mexico District 1 in the U.S. House of Representatives and is a candidate for U.S. Senate.

  • By Peter Goodman / For the Las Cruces Sun-News
    03/18/2012

    I thank Republican State Chairman Monty Newman for his comments on my two columns concerning Steve Pearce. Dialogue and debate on these matters can only help all of us arrive at something like the truth.

    Unfortunately, he chose to ignore my basic point: that while Mr. Pearce presented himself in Las Cruces as “an environmental moderate” he was no such thing. Whether you agree with him or not, he is toward the extreme, even among members of a conservative U.S. Congress, in voting against environmental protections. There are reasons he is consistently ranked so low by groups concerned with our environment.

    Chairman Newman led off with some personal invective (taken in good spirits here), then listed some votes by Pearce (most unrelated to environmental concerns) and asked whether I found fault with them.

    He cited a vote on the Unborn Victims of Violence Act, and asked whether I “advocate for getting away with murdering an unborn child in killing a pregnant woman.” Uhh, no. I never even thought about advocating any such thing.

    Leading off with that vote illustrates our different priorities. Executing a murderer twice, or sentencing him to prison for two lifetimes instead of one, might be very satisfying; but I care more about repairing this country’s ill economy and polluted environment, getting people back to work, improving schools, making our system fairer, and the like.

    He continued, “Does Mr. Goodman support partial birth abortions, or does he believe that we should remove ‘under God’ from our pledge of allegiance.” Abortion deserves a separate column at some point as an issue that provokes emotional responses and great divisiveness.

    As to ‘under God,” which got added to the pledge in 1954, I don’t much care. Those who like to say it or not say it should suit themselves. On balance, I’d stick with the original pledge, and the basic principle that church and state are separate. Public schools aren’t for teaching kids to believe in gods or not to believe in gods.

    These are the votes Chairman Newman leads off with in trying to defend Representative Pearce. Are these the highlights of Pearce’s service in Congress? That’d be like a highlight film on a high school basketball player that shows him tying his shoes and tossing a sandwich wrapper toward a wastebasket.

    The chairman also cites votes by Representative Pearce against the stimulus and against the cap and trade bill, as if they were unquestionably right.

    Well, as a U.S. citizen and a New Mexican, I’d have voted against the war with Iraq, which was based on a lie and helped get us into the economic hot water we’re in. I probably would have voted for the economic stimulus bill which, although it was watered-down in an attempt at bipartisanship, helped keep us out of either a full depression or a worse depression than we’re in.

    Of course Chairman Newman doesn’t mention Rep. Pearce’s vote on Feb. 17 against extending the payroll tax cut. Even when most Republicans realized the absurdity of their opposition to it, Pearce shouted “Nay!” It passed 293-132. While Rep. Pearce steadfastly opposes making billionaires like the Koch Brothers pay something closer to the tax rate any other civilized country would charge them, he says the deficit means we can’t afford to extend the tax cut for less wealthy working folk. I’m not smart enough to follow that logic.

    Chairman Newman also didn’t mention Representative Pearce’s recent votes to suspend the cross-state air pollution rule, to repeal energy efficiency standards for incandescent lightbulbs, to repeal EPA emissions regulations for cement manufacturers, for the Air Quality Impact of Drilling Act (weakening the Clean Air Act), and against repeal of certain funding restrictions on the ESA. The consistently anti-environmental slant of his voting record makes it misleading for Pearce to call himself “an environmental moderate.” (Again, I don’t say the oil and gas industry is always wrong, or that environmental protection advocates always right; but I do say that Representative Pearce (a) gets a bundle of money from oil and gas interests and (b) consistently votes against environmental protection advocates on just about everything.)

    The chairman also took a familiar line more often taken in national affairs: that if I disagreed with him and with Mr. Pearce, I must not really be New Mexican. (Perhaps there’ll be a legislative committee on un-New Mexican Affairs one day.)

    In fact, a new survey suggests Mr. Pearce is the one who’s out of step with New Mexico. A 2012 survey by The Colorado College found that a majority of New Mexicans disagree that “We need to allow companies greater access to our natural resources, by ensuring them the ability to drill, mine, harvest timber, and extract other resources from our public lands” and disagree that “One of the best ways to create jobs is to cut back environmental regulations that are weighing down New Mexico businesses.”

    The survey also asked, “As part of efforts to improve the state economy and generate jobs as quickly as possible, some people have proposed reducing protections for land, air and water that apply to major industries. Would you prefer that New Mexico reduce protections for land, air and water that apply to major industries OR that New Mexico maintain protections for land, air, and water that apply to major industries.” New Mexicans answered “maintain protections” by 79 percent to 17 percent — and another 1 percent, unprompted, said “Increase protections.”

    I’m a New Mexican and I love New Mexico. That’s why I’d like to see it represented in Congress by the best possible people.

    Peter Goodman and his wife Dael live in Doña Ana County. He blogs at www.soledadcanyon.blogspot.com.

  • there is

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  • New Mexicans have come out in great numbers to support the preservation of the Rio Grande del Norte.

    The Rio Grande del Norte is a national treasure. It is here that we find the iconic landscapes that for centuries have shaped our nation’s vision of the West. Biologically diverse and spectacular, this swath of wilderness spanning 236,000 acres through rich wildlife habitat offers a paradise for backcountry hiking and fishing, an outstanding place for observing nature in all of its splendor, and a refuge offering solitude and spiritual rejuvenation.

    This year, “This American Land,” had a segment highlighting Rio Grande del Norte and the people who are working to protect this special place.

  • New Mexicans have come out in great numbers to support the preservation of the Rio Grande del Norte.

    The Rio Grande del Norte is a national treasure. It is here that we find the iconic landscapes that for centuries have shaped our nation’s vision of the West. Biologically diverse and spectacular, this swath of wilderness spanning 236,000 acres through rich wildlife habitat offers a paradise for backcountry hiking and fishing, an outstanding place for observing nature in all of its splendor, and a refuge offering solitude and spiritual rejuvenation.

    This year, “This American Land,” had a segment highlighting Rio Grande del Norte and the people who are working to protect this special place.

  • time is

  • By Bernie Digman, Commentary

    http://www.nmpolitics.net/

    4/10/12

    Many veterans have turned to nature after our struggles through war. I want the veterans of New Mexico to be able to enjoy these lands, just as I have.

    Teddy Roosevelt was a soldier, statesman and the father of America’s conservation movement. Roosevelt believed deeply in protecting America’s natural resources and once stated, “Optimism is a good characteristic, but if carried to an excess, it becomes foolishness. We are prone to speak of the resources of this country as inexhaustible; this is not so.”

    Like TR, I am a veteran and, having served my country, I understand the importance of service. It is in my blood. I served with the 757th Medical Detachment in Germany from 1973 to 1976. Today, I am serving right here in my community, protecting what I love, the Organ Mountains and other public lands in Doña Ana County. I continue to serve as an officer in a local volunteer fire department, and the Organ Mountains are part of the district where I respond to medical emergencies, wildfire and public assistance calls.

    Standing at 32 million years old, the Organ range is truly one of the most picturesque in the western United States. While rugged, the mountains are also home to a diverse sphere of over 800 plant species. We camp, hunt and hike with family and friends in these beloved mountains. They are part of our culture.

    Having traveled a lot during my time in the military, one of the things that I always missed was the magnificence of New Mexico. Its beauty is unparalleled to anything I have seen in my 59 years. During my time in the Army I would often encounter long days and stress. One of the things that brought me peace was to reflect back to my homeland and, more specifically, the ambience of these mountains.

    This land is also home to a rich military history. As a veteran, this is of great importance to my community. During the Second World War, areas west of Las Cruces were used for precision bombing ranges. Many of the men who flew these training missions served our nation in Europe and the Pacific, and some never came home.

    The thought of this loss makes my mission to protect the Doña Ana County’s public lands even more important.

    Protecting public lands is also about more than just conserving acreage. It is also about jobs and the economy. Each year, people from all over this great nation come to enjoy and explore the beauty of our state. A recent study found that over $23 million was spent last year in the Carlsbad Caverns area alone. This supported over 350 direct and indirect jobs. This can happen with the Organ Mountains too.

    It’s time for Washington to act

    How can we protect these sacred lands and do it in a way that promotes tourism and balanced growth? There are a couple of ways. First, we must call on Congress to pass the Organ Mountains – Doña Ana County Conservation and Protection Act. The bill, introduced by Senators Bingaman and Udall, would create wilderness and conservation areas in the county while allowing for continued public use and access. The second way is for President Obama to create the Organ Mountains – Desert Peaks National Monument by using the Antiquities Act. This would accomplish many of the same goals as the legislation.

    Our community has spoken in support of protecting these lands. Now it’s time to finish the job.

    In conclusion, I want the veterans of New Mexico to be able to enjoy these lands, just as I have. Many of us have turned to nature after our struggles through war. Many of us return home with scars from the battlefield, some of which are unseen.

    It is more important now than ever to ensure that lands such as these are protected. We owe this to our veterans. TR would expect nothing less.

    Bernie Digman is a native of New Mexico who has lived in Farmington, Albuquerque, Gallup and Las Cruces, where he and his wife own Milagro Coffee y Espresso, Inc. He’s still an active member of the Las Alturas Volunteer Fire Department and spends time traveling and with their son, daughter-in-law and two grandsons in Minnesota.

  • By Bernie Digman, Commentary

    http://www.nmpolitics.net/

    4/10/12

    Many veterans have turned to nature after our struggles through war. I want the veterans of New Mexico to be able to enjoy these lands, just as I have.

    Teddy Roosevelt was a soldier, statesman and the father of America’s conservation movement. Roosevelt believed deeply in protecting America’s natural resources and once stated, “Optimism is a good characteristic, but if carried to an excess, it becomes foolishness. We are prone to speak of the resources of this country as inexhaustible; this is not so.”

    Like TR, I am a veteran and, having served my country, I understand the importance of service. It is in my blood. I served with the 757th Medical Detachment in Germany from 1973 to 1976. Today, I am serving right here in my community, protecting what I love, the Organ Mountains and other public lands in Doña Ana County. I continue to serve as an officer in a local volunteer fire department, and the Organ Mountains are part of the district where I respond to medical emergencies, wildfire and public assistance calls.

    Standing at 32 million years old, the Organ range is truly one of the most picturesque in the western United States. While rugged, the mountains are also home to a diverse sphere of over 800 plant species. We camp, hunt and hike with family and friends in these beloved mountains. They are part of our culture.

    Having traveled a lot during my time in the military, one of the things that I always missed was the magnificence of New Mexico. Its beauty is unparalleled to anything I have seen in my 59 years. During my time in the Army I would often encounter long days and stress. One of the things that brought me peace was to reflect back to my homeland and, more specifically, the ambience of these mountains.

    This land is also home to a rich military history. As a veteran, this is of great importance to my community. During the Second World War, areas west of Las Cruces were used for precision bombing ranges. Many of the men who flew these training missions served our nation in Europe and the Pacific, and some never came home.

    The thought of this loss makes my mission to protect the Doña Ana County’s public lands even more important.

    Protecting public lands is also about more than just conserving acreage. It is also about jobs and the economy. Each year, people from all over this great nation come to enjoy and explore the beauty of our state. A recent study found that over $23 million was spent last year in the Carlsbad Caverns area alone. This supported over 350 direct and indirect jobs. This can happen with the Organ Mountains too.

    It’s time for Washington to act

    How can we protect these sacred lands and do it in a way that promotes tourism and balanced growth? There are a couple of ways. First, we must call on Congress to pass the Organ Mountains – Doña Ana County Conservation and Protection Act. The bill, introduced by Senators Bingaman and Udall, would create wilderness and conservation areas in the county while allowing for continued public use and access. The second way is for President Obama to create the Organ Mountains – Desert Peaks National Monument by using the Antiquities Act. This would accomplish many of the same goals as the legislation.

    Our community has spoken in support of protecting these lands. Now it’s time to finish the job.

    In conclusion, I want the veterans of New Mexico to be able to enjoy these lands, just as I have. Many of us have turned to nature after our struggles through war. Many of us return home with scars from the battlefield, some of which are unseen.

    It is more important now than ever to ensure that lands such as these are protected. We owe this to our veterans. TR would expect nothing less.

    Bernie Digman is a native of New Mexico who has lived in Farmington, Albuquerque, Gallup and Las Cruces, where he and his wife own Milagro Coffee y Espresso, Inc. He’s still an active member of the Las Alturas Volunteer Fire Department and spends time traveling and with their son, daughter-in-law and two grandsons in Minnesota.

  • By Associated Press on Sat, July 14, 2012

    Federal wildlife managers have designated two more Mexican gray wolf packs in New Mexico, bringing the number of packs in the American Southwest to 14.

    The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has been trying to return the predators to their historic range in New Mexico and Arizona for more than a dozen years, but the program has been troubled by issues such as politics, illegal shootings and courtroom battles.

    The Mexican gray wolf, a subspecies of the gray wolf, once roamed parts of New Mexico, Arizona, Texas and Mexico. Hunting and government-sponsored extermination campaigns all but wiped out the predator. It was added to the federal endangered species list in 1976, and a captive-breeding program was started.

    The first batch of wolves was released into the wild in May 1998, and currently at least 58 wolves remain in the wild in those two states. The most recent annual survey showed at least 18 pups among the packs at the beginning of the year.

    Liz Jozwiak, the field coordinator for the Mexican gray wolf recovery program, said several packs are showing signs of denning behavior, which could mean a new batch of pups.

    The possibility of pups coupled with the formation of the two new packs in June mark what Jozwiak called a “significant, positive step” for the population, which is scattered across millions of forested acres in southwestern New Mexico and southeastern Arizona.

    “Just seeing that there is some natural disbursal and individuals are finding each other, forming packs and having the opportunity to breed is significant,” she said. “I think that’s going to really contribute to the overall recovery of the population.”

    But biologists have concerns about genetic diversity within the small population. Without new wolves, inbreeding can result in smaller litter sizes and greater pup mortality.

    Last year, the recovery team observed 38 pups in the wild. Less than half survived through the end of the year.

    This year, Jozwiak said the team is hoping for a higher survival rate.

    “We’re doing everything we can to monitor what the status is of each pack, whether they’re breeding and how many pups they have,” she said.

    Michael Robinson of the Center for Biological Diversity, an environmental group that has criticized the management of the wolf program, argued that hope shouldn’t be used as a hedge against Mexican gray wolf extinction.

    While two new packs is good news, he said the federal government needs to release more captive wolves to bolster a population that has been kept in check by poaching, a lack of new releases and past instances of trappings and lethal removals triggered by run-ins with livestock.

    Ranchers have been just as critical of the program, saying managers have not done enough to protect their livelihood.

    One of the new packs, dubbed the Canyon Creek pack, is in the Beaverhead area northeast of the Gila Wilderness. In the past, Robinson said the area was the “epicenter of wolf-livestock conflict.” The area is home to a sizeable elk herd.

    The Elk Horn Pack is closer to Reserve, an area that hasn’t had resident wolves.

  • By Associated Press on Sat, July 14, 2012

    Federal wildlife managers have designated two more Mexican gray wolf packs in New Mexico, bringing the number of packs in the American Southwest to 14.

    The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has been trying to return the predators to their historic range in New Mexico and Arizona for more than a dozen years, but the program has been troubled by issues such as politics, illegal shootings and courtroom battles.

    The Mexican gray wolf, a subspecies of the gray wolf, once roamed parts of New Mexico, Arizona, Texas and Mexico. Hunting and government-sponsored extermination campaigns all but wiped out the predator. It was added to the federal endangered species list in 1976, and a captive-breeding program was started.

    The first batch of wolves was released into the wild in May 1998, and currently at least 58 wolves remain in the wild in those two states. The most recent annual survey showed at least 18 pups among the packs at the beginning of the year.

    Liz Jozwiak, the field coordinator for the Mexican gray wolf recovery program, said several packs are showing signs of denning behavior, which could mean a new batch of pups.

    The possibility of pups coupled with the formation of the two new packs in June mark what Jozwiak called a “significant, positive step” for the population, which is scattered across millions of forested acres in southwestern New Mexico and southeastern Arizona.

    “Just seeing that there is some natural disbursal and individuals are finding each other, forming packs and having the opportunity to breed is significant,” she said. “I think that’s going to really contribute to the overall recovery of the population.”

    But biologists have concerns about genetic diversity within the small population. Without new wolves, inbreeding can result in smaller litter sizes and greater pup mortality.

    Last year, the recovery team observed 38 pups in the wild. Less than half survived through the end of the year.

    This year, Jozwiak said the team is hoping for a higher survival rate.

    “We’re doing everything we can to monitor what the status is of each pack, whether they’re breeding and how many pups they have,” she said.

    Michael Robinson of the Center for Biological Diversity, an environmental group that has criticized the management of the wolf program, argued that hope shouldn’t be used as a hedge against Mexican gray wolf extinction.

    While two new packs is good news, he said the federal government needs to release more captive wolves to bolster a population that has been kept in check by poaching, a lack of new releases and past instances of trappings and lethal removals triggered by run-ins with livestock.

    Ranchers have been just as critical of the program, saying managers have not done enough to protect their livelihood.

    One of the new packs, dubbed the Canyon Creek pack, is in the Beaverhead area northeast of the Gila Wilderness. In the past, Robinson said the area was the “epicenter of wolf-livestock conflict.” The area is home to a sizeable elk herd.

    The Elk Horn Pack is closer to Reserve, an area that hasn’t had resident wolves.

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