Farm Credit
Aug 30 2017

As good a time as any …

by Caren Cowan, Executive Director,
New Mexico Cattle Grower’s Association
Read this article & more in New Mexico Stockman Magazine

The afternoon after a New Mexico State Game Commission meeting with the topic of wolves and antelope (two separate items) may not be the best time to start this column, but it may be as good a time as any.

The wolf issue seems to be one that will plague me for the rest of my life. The Commission’s discussion at their August meeting was about the draft recovery plan and the need to submit comments. By a vote of six to one, the Commission decided to support the plan, with significant comments on the need for changes in the plan.

Stop! Before you throw this magazine, there is some rationale to the thinking of the six who voted for the position. We have all believed that a recovery plan is a necessity. Without a plan no one knows what recovery means and there is no chance for a delisting in our lifetimes or after.

We got one — be careful what you wish for.

The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (FWS) is under a court order to produce a plan before the end of 2017 so this plan or some version close to it is going to be presented the 9th District Count in Tucson and published as final in the very near future. If anyone wants to be involved in litigation on the plan in the future, they must comment on the plan to have standing in the courts.

Among the comments the Commission wants to submit is the need to have wolf recovery in the US separated from recovery in Mexico. There may be a fat chance of that happening, but the Commission is on the right track.

So, I can probably get over the Commission’s actions.

What burns my mind (and other places) is having to sit through the public comments period. The day could have been worse. The room was not filled with wolf-lovers and there weren’t many fireworks, but the disconnect from reality in those folks never ceases to amaze me.

There was the requisite representative from the Defenders of Wildlife, a new guy apparently from Montana. He extolled the virtues of wolves in Montana and how well the program was working there with ranchers. I had two thoughts for that — Dorothy, you aren’t in Montana anymore, and how many Montana ranchers have you talked with?

He went well beyond his allotted three minutes extolling the virtues of the wonder depredation payments that ranchers have been and are getting — there is just isn’t a problem, he says.

Then there was the bouncy lady who just loved everything. She wanted to know why we all just couldn’t come to the table and work together. Well, fair lady, you need to be talking to the FWS. They are the folks who make plans — like this current recovery plan — in a vacuum. For more than 25 years they have completely ignored the people who provide the habitat for wildlife and are forced to live with the consequences of their “experiment.”

She went on to say that she had raccoons in her yard all the time that ate up all of her dog food. Nobody compensated her for that loss and she didn’t see why anyone should be compensated for wolf losses. I have a novel idea for her… pick up your dog food after you feed your dogs. Lots of things eat dog food beyond raccoons — like rats, mice, ants and lots more.

And, there was the lady that thought the Commission had come to a great compromise because nobody is happy with the draft recovery plan. Thus my word of the month is “compromise.” The dictionary.com definition of a compromise is “a settlement of differences by mutual concessions; an Agreement reached by adjustment of conflicting or opposing claims, principles, etc., by reciprocal modification of demands.” (Emphasis added)

Does that sound like anything we have seen, heard or been subjected to in the last 25 years?

Perhaps the most disturbing was a comment made by the New Mexico Game & Fish Department (NMDGF) biologist in response to the questions from a Commissioner on the impact of wolves on ranchers and their families. The response was
that social tolerance was an issue.
Social Tolerance?! I guess there is no reason I should be surprised. Federal and state agencies look down on us all the time. But to be so blatantly dismissed as a mere “social consequence” gave me a severe headache.

When society makes a decision…

We have long been told that “society has decided that the nation needs wolves.” I keep asking when there was a vote — I don’t know anyone who voted on this issue. But, that’s beside the point.

Everyone wants to make a decision —they just don’t want to responsible for it OR for it to impact them in any way. Our political processes have become so convoluted that foreigners are helping make environmental decisions in the United States.

I am not talking about the people illegally in the country. There are little old ladies in Paris, France apartments participating in decision making that impacts us every day. One federal agency recently reported that on one environmental issue here in New Mexico there were some 20,000 comments submitted. Well under 10 percent of those were from New Mexico and there was a substantial percentage of foreign comments.

My favorite example of the problem with the way society takes care of things is, if you have a choice, would you rather use a public restroom or a private one? If it belongs to the ‘public’ you can bet that nobody is in charge of cleaning and maintenance. I will admit that my father wasn’t impressed when I used this analogy about public schools. He served on the Tombstone School Board for 36 years. 

Antelope

The NMDGF has come to the conclusion that their A+ antelope hunting system isn’t working. The primary problem is that there are large amounts of land that aren’t being hunted because ranchers are not participating in the program.

Many of those receiving tags based on their acreage find that the number of tags they receive are not commensurate with the number of antelope that populate their property. Additionally, tags are issued on a one-size-fits-all acreage basis. If you don’t have a base amount of acreage, you are not eligible to participate in the program. There are some 256 ranches that would like to participate in the program but don’t qualify.

Then there are big ranches that are getting large numbers of antelope tags that don’t use them. It is clear that the acreage system doesn’t work. Thus, the NMDGF has proposed that the system be scrapped in favor of an over-the-counter system. This proposal hasn’t drawn much support from the landowner community or the outfitting and guiding community.

One long-time outfitter told the NMDGF, after praising them a bit, that “this was the dumbest idea anyone ever had.”

For those with checker-board ranches, there would be absolutely no way to control hunting on their property. These are the folks who have cooperated with the NMDGF that will be thrown to the wolves — not literally… yet.

The proposal would add hunts and contemplates changing hunt days from three to five. That seems to be a none-starter for everyone. The biologist reported that 85 percent of antelope hunters are successful and that success comes in an average of 1.8 hunting days.

When asked by a Commissioner why the additional days were even considered in the face of this data, the answer was that there had been requests for more hunting days so that hunters could just enjoy the land even after that they had bagged their antelope.

The new hunts would allow hunting from mid-August until November. In the initial propose there was no consideration of the fact that that is exactly the time that ranchers get their payday — fall works. Most people get two paychecks a month, along with insurance and maybe even retirement account. Those raising livestock get one payday a year.

In an effort to spread hunters out, antelope hunt codes will go from 60 to 150 or more. The outfitters present weren’t thrilled with that either.

There are many other nuances in the proposal, so the short story is, if you have antelope on your ranch, you will want to study the plan. It will be months before the Commission even thinks about making a decision.

That time could be beneficially used to work with the Department on a plan that works better than the current A+, but doesn’t pull the wheels off. For example, could the A+ system be approached without acreage baseline? Could tags from large ranches that are not using them be assigned to neighboring ranchers who do want to use them? There is probably much more that could be included.

Trespass

One huge concern with the new antelope proposal is trespass. The issue of trespass is one that is out of hand according to landowners throughout New Mexico. Compounding the problem is that it appears that relationships between landowners and conservation officers on the ground are non-existent. NMDFG leadership and the Commission has been made aware of the problem and efforts are underway to find solutions.

However, at the August Commission meeting, one Commissioner had little sympathy for landowners. It is his position that if landowners don’t legally post their property, they have no right to complain.

I am sure he has looked at the current trespass statue and is well aware of the onerous posting requirements that are impossible to comply with because hunters and others tear down and/or shoot up posting signs, along with tanks, windmills and even livestock.     

The primary reason that landowners have been told by conservation officers that either trespass is a county sheriff’s issue or that the legal system won’t prosecute offenders.

Whatever the problem is, you might consider reposting your property as hunting seasons begin and see if you can get to know your conservation officer.

It’s Back…

Last year the Obama Administration proposed overtime rules that could create seriously adverse impacts on most employers. Although it was believed that production agriculture would be exempted, those not engaged in ag production would be hit hard.

Although the rule was put on hold in November, it is not dead. Currently, the U.S. Department of Labor is seeking additional information and public comment on the proposed regulations. As a refresher, the proposed regulation would increase an exempt employee’s minimum salary to $47,476.

The New Mexico Cattle Growers’ Association will be providing information on where and how to submit comments by the September 17, 2017 deadline.

Additionally, there are two bills in Congress which would require the Labor Department to conduct a new and comprehensive analysis on the impact of overtime expansion to small businesses. The measures are “Protecting Workplace Advancement and Opportunity Act” (S. 2707 and H.R. 4773).

Joint Stockmen’s Convention

Time flies when you are having fun and the 2017 Joint Stockmen’s Convention is just around the corner. The convention will be back at the Crown Plaza in Albuquerque November 30 through December 3. The convention block of rooms is open at the hotel at the NMCGA room rate of $81 and there are rooms available at the Fairfield next door at the rate of $65.

Sponsorships are available and the trade show is filling up. The trade show space is offered to last year’s exhibitors first. Any space left over will become available on a first-come-first-serve basis after September 15.

Please plan on coming!!!          

Source: New Mexico Stockman, September 2017