'Use Whatever Means Are Available' - Forest Service wants people, cattle out

by Luther Broaddus III America's country editor, Emeritus

PFNS, Alamogordo, NM - 8/25/02 - "The big picture is to stop ranching on the national forest, and stop people from living in the national forest." This ominous warning was given by a Forest Service employee to a group of ranchers at a meeting in Silver City eight years ago. The people who heard this were astonished to learn such a program was the official policy of the
government. This statement came from a person who had been "socializing," and it was felt he might have been exaggerating in hopes of expanding his ego. However, the actions of the Forest Service over recent years prove the man's warnings to be correct, and now, an Undersecretary of Agriculture has publicly verified this policy.

At the recent Arizona/New Mexico Coalition of County Governments meeting in Glenwood, the audience heard a number of horror stories. They were stories about how people had been forced out of ranching through arbitrary decisions by Forest Service personnel that all had one goal: to put the rancher out of business, and off their deeded lands.

In one case, a longtime Catron County rancher had his permit reduced from over eight hundred head, to just over two hundred head. This Reserve family has a file "three inches thick," with directives and appeals and, reportedly, not one reference was made to any range monitoring data. If the Forest Service is going to cut an allotment by more than 70 percent, their decisions must be backed up by on-site data, prepared by trained professionals with range monitoring experience...not an opinion prepared with the predetermined intent of destroying the economic viability of the operation.

Another story was of Abbe Springs, a Socorro County ranch that had its allotment cut from 335 head, year 'round, to 220 head...for six months. This would force the rancher to buy and sell every six months...an impossible situation. In frustration, the rancher sold his deeded land to a developer. Now, even though Socorro County has approved these deeded lands being
subdivided, the Forest Service is refusing access to any land wherein the owner has to cross Forest Service lands. This is in direct violation of federal law and the Forest Service's own policy manual, which specifically authorizes "right of way" to private land owners.

There were two federal agency speakers from Washington at the August meeting of the Arizona/New Mexico Coalition of County Governments. One was from the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), and the other from the Forest Service. Both of these men prefaced their remarks by reminding the audience they should be thankful they were now under George Bush's administration rather than Al Gore's. The Forest Service representative, Mark Rey, is the Undersecretary of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) for Natural Resources and
Environmental Affairs, and head of the Forest Service. He stated the determination of his department was that the most significant problem in federal lands in the Southwest was the sale of ranchers' deeded lands to subdividers for private homes.  This was having an adverse effect on clean water, endangered species, and local wildlife.

His (USDA's) policy is to move as quickly as possible to stop ranchers from selling their deeded lands for homes. This was exactly the position of the Clinton administration and an almost verbatim quote of the Silver City meeting's Forest Service employee, made eight years ago. Rey said he is directing all departments to immediately stop all subdividing of private lands located within national forests, and where they couldn't stop it, to use "whatever means are available" to slow it down.

This is exactly what Rey's Forest Service underlings are doing to the developer of the Socorro County ranch's deeded lands. After the developer satisfied the County subdivision requirements, the Forest Service started to use "whatever means are available" to slow him down. Although the County already approved his plan, wherein 57 percent of the subdivision was accessible by a county-maintained road, and mostly sold out; the Forest Service is now concentrating on stopping access to the "checker boarded" lands. In this action, the Forest Service is honoring neither New Mexico state law, which prohibits a person from "land locking" another person; nor
federal law, as described in the Federal Land Policy Management Act of 1976 (FLPMA), wherein the procedure for granting rights-of-way across federal lands is specified.

The subdivider paid $25,000 for an environmental assessment, which was prepared by a Forest Service approved contractor, only to be told: "Re-do it," which they did. Now, on orders from the Albuquerque office, the Magdalena District Ranger has told the subdivider that they want to see yet another study. This one is to be an archeological assessment of the deeded land the subdivider is keeping.

It is none of the federal government's business what is on his private land. If this order is allowed to stand, perhaps the next short step will be to have selected studies, paid for by ranchers, on not only forest grazing allotments, but also BLM and State land leases.

The point person carrying the torch and causing these problems is Sue McHenry. She will probably get a medal from Mr. Rey for carrying out his orders with unbridled enthusiasm. She called, with actual glee in her voice, to tell me the subdivider was going to have to jump through one more hoop. She must be using, as Mark Ray says, "whatever means are available," to slow
this subdivision down.

An environmentalist has threatened the Forest Service that if they approve the proposed exchange of easements, he will sue, and that is double bad because the new Forest Supervisor for this region is scared to death of environmentalists. He is Harvey Forsgren, the man responsible for allowing four young people to die fighting a forest fire, rather than risk being
criticized by an environmental group for using water from an endangered species critical habitat river. Perhaps Ms. McHenry will get three medals for her efforts to stomp out property rights: one from Mr. Rey; one from an archeological society; and one from Mr. Forsgren.

When asked to explain his ordering the trampling of private property rights by having the federal government interfere with the transfer of private property between two citizens; Rey said not to worry; he was planning to get federal funds to mitigate any economic hardship his order might cause a rancher. How about that?

The USDA's Forest Service uses arbitrary rules to force ranchers off their ranches. Then they use more federal power to prohibit or make it difficult for them to sell their private land. Finally, they use federal handouts to keep those citizens from complaining too loudly. This type of action is the reason the two major political parties are known in this area as Socialist Party A, and Socialist Party B.

Although these two bureaucrats piously told everyone they should be happy George Bush won the election, it is apparent that for all practical purposes, all the election did was change the safety pins and leave the dirty diaper on the baby. Arizona and New Mexico ranchers are as bad off
under Bush as they would have been under Gore. They just do not know it...yet.

What is the answer? It will not be easy or fast. Congress will need to fix it.

There must be a new law specifically granting citizens the protection of Article III courts in all matters. Today, people accused of violating the Endangered Species Act, the Clean Water Act, the Environmental Protection Agency's administrative ruling, etc. are tried in Article IV courts. Article III Courts are Constitutional courts. Article IV Courts are legislative courts wherein people have their Constitutional protection stripped from them as they step through the courtroom door.

If you are interested in securing a copy of the data, including Supreme Court decisions, describing a person's rights under Article III and Article IV courts, send $2 with a SASE, to: Luther's Comments, PO Box 500, Magdalena, NM 87825.

PFNS is a public service of The Paragon Foundation, Alamogordo, NM 1-877-847-3443

In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, any copyrighted work in this message is distributed under fair use without profit or payment for non-profit research and educational purposes only. [Ref. http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/17/107.shtml]


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