Farm Credit
Jul 19 2017

Insanity

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

The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over expecting different results. Dealing with the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (FWS) has gone well past being insane. For more than a quarter of a century, ranchers have been attending meetings on the Mexican wolf program held by the agency only to be verbally abused, physically threatened and completely ignored.

For that reason the New Mexico Cattle Growers’ Association, the New Mexico Wool Growers, Inc. and the New Mexico Federal Lands Council are advising their members not to waste the time and resources to attend these meetings.

However it is crucial that EVERYONE and their brother send in comments by August 29, 2017. The FWS has predetermined that there will be no extension of the comment period. The NMCGA and others are working on detailed comments which will be available via email and on the website at www.nmagriculture.org .

There are some tidbits that are just too good not to share now. Mexican wolf “recovery” is predicated on a wolf number of 320 with a specific genetic make up to be maintained for eight years. And, more outrageous is the fact that 170 of those wolves must survive in Mexico, where the U.S. federal government has no influence or control at all.

The draft recovery plan states that wolves have been released in Mexico since 2011 and that as of April 2017 there are only 28 wolves known alive. It is worth remembering that the FWS has been releasing wolves in New Mexico and Arizona for nearly 20 years and there are currently only 113 animals reported by the agency. Those who live and work on the land believe there are many more out there; they just don’t have collars on.

According to the draft recovery plan, models predict that down-listing could occur in as little as 16 to 20 years. It will likely be 25 to 35 years before “recovery.” The document also states that the cost of this “recovery” is a projected cost of $262,575,000. These time frames are based on expectation of full funding, implementation as provided for in the plan and implementation strategy, and full cooperation of bi-national partners.

The plan also states that when the 1982 recovery plan was created ”…the recovery team could not foresee full recovery… due… their assessment of a lack of suitable habitat within historical range due to human activities.” If there wasn’t enough habitat in 1982, just how many people have moved into the region in the last 35 years? How many roads have been built? How many hundreds of thousands of acres have burned?

Then there are the “threats to the Mexican wolf.” Threats to a species are the determinations the FWS uses to decide if a species is threatened or endangered. There are five factors in the Endangered Species Act (ESA):

The present or threatened destruction, modification, or curtailment of its habitat or range;

Over utilization for commercial, recreational, scientific, or educational purposes;

Disease or predation;

The inadequacy of existing regulatory mechanisms;

Other natural or manmade factors affecting survival.

The FWS recently assessed threats to the Mexican wolf and determined that the Mexican wolf was in danger of extinction due to illegal shooting, genetic issues (inbreeding, loss of heterozygosity (…) and loss of adaptive potential), and small population size. More recently, the FWS described four stressors (conditions that may influence the current and ongoing recovery of Mexico wolf) in the draft Biological Report for the Mexican wolf:

Adequate habitat availability/ suitability;

Excessive human-caused mortality;

Demographic stochasticity associated with small population size;

Continuing or accelerated loss of genetic diversity associated in the captive or wild populations

Stressors and threats are highly related concepts, but not be one in the same. For example, for the Mexican wolf, habitat destruction, modification or curtailment is not threatening or endangering the Mexico wolf, yet ensuring adequate habitat is available to support recovered Mexican wolf population is central to the recovery effort for the Mexican wolf (e.g., a potential stressor).

It was tough enough retyping that section. Now I need help in determining exactly what is meant by it! This is just a taste of the 43-page document, which is actually small compared to recent wolf documents issued by the FWS.

To obtain a copy of the Mexican wolf draft recovery plan please visit: www.fws.gov/southwest/es/mexicanwolf/MWRP.cfm

Then it gets worse…

One of the issues that has plagued ranchers who have been forced to live with wolves is documenting wolf kills for the pittance of compensation that might be available. With calves the primary issue has been finding anything left of a carcass to make a determination on whether or not it was a wolf kill.

One NMCGA member recently thought he had the perfect documentation. A photo was taken of a wolf trotting through the pasture just off of a road with a calf’s head in his mouth.

Not so much. The kill was documented as a “probable” kill instead of a kill because the rest of the calf’s body couldn’t be located. My suggestion was that they necropsy the wolf to find the rest of the calf. Nobody thought that was funny.

Now the rancher has to prove the calf whose head was in the wolf’s mouth was alive when the wolf showed up. The photo doesn’t establish that.

Other lame excuses included that there was no proof of when the photo was taken and that calf could have been still-born. The call of a “probable” kill diminishes the compensation even further.

A message from the
Acting Director of the BLM

The President and Secretary of the Interior Zinke have asked the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to take a new, in-depth look into our land use planning and National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) processes.  As someone who cares about the nation’s public lands, your input is vital to determining how the BLM will approach land use planning going forward.

Our goal is to identify inefficiencies and redundancies that should be eliminated from our land use planning and NEPA processes, while ensuring that we fulfill our legal and resource stewardship responsibilities. By doing this, we will be able to dedicate more time and resources to completing the important on-the-ground work on our public lands. 

Balanced stewardship of the public lands and resources is more important to the interests of the country and its people than ever before. This mission is also more complex and challenging than at any time in our history.  But with your input, we can strike that balance.

We are opening a 21-day period, beginning on July 3, 2017 and ending on July 24, 2017, in which you can submit your ideas specific to how we can make the BLM’s planning procedures and environmental reviews timelier and less costly, as well as responsive to local needs.  This streamlining effort will help shape how we move forward. You can submit your input by going to this link: goo.gl/CYxqM5.

The decisions made in land use plans and after NEPA analyses are fundamental to how BLM public lands and resources are used for the benefit of all Americans.  We are committed to working cooperatively with state and local governments, communities, Indian tribes, and other stakeholders to determine the best ways to manage public lands for multiple uses and values, both now and in the future.

This effort is not required under any laws or regulations. We are doing this because we strongly believe that public input, especially at the local level, is an essential component of federal land management.

– Michael Nedd, Acting BLM Director

Other Moves On the
Washington, DC Front

The House Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies marked up their FY 2018 appropriations bill, the first step in the appropriations process in mid July. Highlights of the that bill are as follows:

Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) – Funded at $275 million with state and local recreation and battlefield preservation programs prioritized

Payment in Lieu of Taxes (PILT) – Funded at $465 million

Bureau of Land Management (BLM) – Funded at $1.2 billion (a reduction of $46 million from FY 17 enacted levels)
     $20 million reduction in funding for land acquisition
     Level funding of $68 million for on the ground sage grouse conservation

National Park Service (NPS) – Funded at $2.9 billion (a reduction of $64 million from FY 17 enacted levels)
     $55 million targeted to park operations and maintenance to reduce the maintenance backlog

U.S. Forest Service (USFS) – Funded at $5.2 billion
     Nearly half ($2.5 billion) is targeted to wildland fire prevention and suppression.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) – Funded at $1.5 billion (a reduction of $38 million from FY 17 enacted levels) 
     Prioritizes funding to reduce the Endangered Species Act (ESA) backlog, refuge backlog, and to fight invasive species

Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) – Funded at $7.5 billion (a reduction of $528 million from FY 17 enacted levels)

The bill continues language from previous years that prohibits the use of funds to write or issue a proposed rule for greater sage-grouse and/or the Columbia basin distinct population segment of greater sage-grouse

Wild Horses and Burros – The bill allows the Secretary of Interior to transfer excess wild horses or burros to other federal, state, and local government agencies for use as work animals and that horses and burros transferred to other agencies lose their status as a wild free-roaming horse or burro. Animals cannot be slaughtered for commercial purposes, and can only be euthanized under the recommendation of a licensed veterinarian in cases of injury or advanced age.

Gray wolves range-wide –  No funds may be used to treat any gray wolf in the lower 48 states as an endangered or threatened species. The bill also directed FWS to reissue the final rule to delist wolf populations in the Great Lakes and Wyoming within 60 days.

At the same time the US House Appropriations Committee marked up and vote on the Fiscal Year 2018 Agriculture Appropriations Bill. The passage of this bill for the past decade has included language that effectively outlaws horse slaughter in the United States by blocking funding for the USDA to pay inspectors for horse slaughter facilities, but today’s passage will go without that amendment.

These committees are just the first stop for appropriation measures. They will move to the House Floor & then move over to the Senate for passage. There will likely be conference committees between the House & the Senate before anything is final. These bills are to fund the fed. govt. for fiscal year 2018, which commences on 10/1/2017.      

Source: New Mexico Stockman, July 2017