Published: Tuesday, 05 December 2017 16:41
For immediate release December 5, 2017
National Monument Review Report Released; Fate of New Mexico National Monuments Now in Hands of President Trump
Actions on Utah’s Monuments Largest Attack on Protected Public Lands in History
Albuquerque, NM—New Mexico Wild condemns President Trump’s actions yesterday to eviscerate the Grand Staircase-Escalante by nearly 50% and Bears Ears National Monument by almost 85%, totaling a reduction of nearly 2 million acres. This represents the largest roll-back of public lands protections ever – so far. We view an attack on one national monument as an attack on all. We stand in solidarity with New Mexico’s All Pueblo Council of Governors, the Bears Ears Inter-Tribal Coalition and the overwhelming majority of Americans who opposed this. New Mexico Wild will file a friend of the court amicus brief on their behalf.
Today, Interior Secretary Zinke released his recommendations to the President on the national monument review. While Secretary Zinke did not recommend shrinking the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks (OMDP) or Rio Grande del Norte (RGDN) National Monuments, he did recommend amending the Monuments’ proclamations. While we are cautiously satisfied to see no changes to the boundaries recommended, our position all along has been that this review should never have been ordered by President Trump. Similarly, we believe any changes to the presidential proclamations creating these monuments are unwarranted, unwelcome, and illegal.
The justifications cited for recommending changes to the proclamations – to preserve public access, grazing, tribal cultural use, hunting and fishing rights, as examples, are not only already allowed, but were specifically highlighted in the Presidential Proclamations that created these national monuments. Indeed, preserving public access and traditional uses for current and future generations was a primary reason for protecting these public lands in the first place.
Concerns about border security, an issue referenced in the report justifying recommended amendments to the OMDP proclamation, were also thoroughly considered and addressed in the original Proclamation, which actually enhanced border security by including a five-mile buffer to the international border. More detailed protocols about how to address these types of issues are more appropriately addressed through the monument management planning process – a public process with extensive opportunities for stakeholder engagement.
Moreover, the areas of concern noted in Secretary Zinke’s report were based on factual inaccuracies. For example, Zinke wrote that “I heard from local stakeholders that a lack of access to roads due to monument restrictions has left many grazing permittees choosing not to renew permits.” New Mexico Wild investigated this claim and found no evidence that any grazing permits in either of New Mexico's national monuments have been altered due to Monument designation. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has confirmed that no permit changes have occurred on BLM land since designation. The State Land Office has confirmed that the only change to a state grazing permit in OMDP since designation has been an increase on one permit, and cannot provide any information on changes to grazing permits inside RGDN. Senator Heinrich questioned BLM on this issue during a Senate hearing several months ago. The agency stated it had not been consulted during Secretary Zinke's monument review or requested to provide information. While we do not believe that any changes to Presidential Proclamations are legal, actions should certainly not be based on sloppy and error-ridden reports or hearsay.
Most importantly, the report released today contains only recommendations. The fate of our national monuments is now in the hands of President Trump. Until he takes action, it is impossible to know whether they will be harmed, or to what extent. New Mexico Wild will remain vigilant.
“The President’s actions yesterday were a travesty of historic proportions. Regardless of what he decides with the other national monuments in the upcoming days, his ‘burn the house down’ behavior will be viewed by future Americans as shameful. New Mexicans stated loudly and clearly to leave our national monuments alone,” said Mark Allison, executive director of New Mexico Wild, “and that is what we now call on him to do.”
New Mexico Wild announced this summer that any Presidential action that reduced or removed protections for the numerous historic, cultural, and ecological objects and resources within the monuments will be met with immediate legal action.
Published: Wednesday, 08 November 2017 09:25
Military training proposal would put important Gila cultural and ecological resources at risk and threaten local economies
Mark Allison, Executive Director, New Mexico Wilderness Alliance, firstname.lastname@example.org (505) 239-0906
Chris Schlabach, Co-Owner of Gila Hike & Bike, (575-740-8481)
Silver City, NM (November 7, 2017) — In response to public outcry about a proposal that could put
the Gila Wilderness and surrounding communities at risk, Holloman Air Force Base (HAFB) has agreed to host a public meeting on Nov. 14th at 6:00 pm at the Grant County Administration Building regarding their “Special Use Airspace Optimization Project.” While the public is invited to attend the meeting, public comments will not be allowed to be submitted either verbally or in writing. A public rally is planned at 5:00 pm at the Grant County Administration Building to show strong public concern over this proposal and process. This public rally will include local elected officials, business owners, sportsmen organizations, outfitters, veterans and conservation groups.
The 6:00 pm meeting in the Grant County Commission Chambers will focus on recently announced plans to conduct 10,000 fly-overs annually above the Gila National Forest, including the Gila and Aldo Leopold Wilderness Areas. Trainings will include low altitude overflights, at 500 feet above the national forest and 2,000 feet above wilderness. The proposal would drop 30,000 magnesium flares and toxic “defensive chaff” each year.
“Their proposal would essentially mean that all of the wilderness areas, wilderness study areas and the entire Gila National Forest would look and sound like a war zone,” said Mark Allison, Executive Director of New Mexico Wild.
Conservation organizations and business interests sent a letter to Holloman on October 13, 2017 asking that the scoping period be reopened and extended and that they hold a public meeting in Silver City to explain to concerned citizens what exactly they are proposing, why it is necessary, and why they think the Gila National Forest is an appropriate place for jets and incendiary devices in an area that has suffered from drought and is home to a very dry, and brittle forest.
“As a veteran, and former Navy SEAL, I know that the readiness of our nation’s military is a top priority, including for those of us here in southern New Mexico,” said Grant County resident Brett Myrick. "But this is exactly the wrong place for screaming jets and incendiary devices. People live and visit here because of the peace and quiet of our public lands. This would ruin what I love most.”
HAFB is accepting comments on the proposal though citizens have little information to base their comments or recommendations on. Local groups are urging HAFB officials to address major topics of concern, including:
- Has Holloman investigated DOD lands to see if the objectives of their training mission can be accomplished somewhere more appropriate?
- What are the levels and frequency of noise from low-altitude training missions and from 1000 supersonic sorties over the Gila?
- What would the implications of this be to wildlife, including endangered species? For hunting? For cattle ranchers, including calving? For local businesses such as outdoor retailers and outfitters? For local governments and economies that depend on recreationists, hunters, and tourists?
- What are the impacts of magnesium flares being released over the forest each year? Do they increase the risk of wildfire?
- In the event of a flare caused wildfire, who would bear the expense and risk of firefighting activities?
- What is contained in chaff? How are toxins disbursed in wind? Are contaminants like chromium and lead included in chaff and what are the environmental consequences to human health, wildlife, waterways and the land?
- Will there be night time overflights and what will the impact be on night skies, including flares?
“Our business and local economy depend on tourism and outdoor recreation," said Chris Schlabach, co-owner of Gila Hike & Bike. “One of the distinctive features of the Gila National Forest and Wilderness is how quiet and remote it is. With low altitude flyovers, both tourism and ecosystems will suffer.”
“Now is an important time for local residents to speak up and have a voice in the process,” said State Representative and veteran Rudy Martinez. “Our community stands to be impacted greatly and we need clear information to evaluate this proposal and help the Air Force understand the concerns we have about the future of our community and the need to protect what makes this region special—our protected public lands.”
Conservation groups will provide technical scoping comments to the Grant County Commission on November 14 and ask that they be provided to Holloman AFB. Concerned citizens may also go to http://actnow.io/6l8d4C1to sign a petition opposing this proposal.
“It’s critical that community members stand up for peaceful skies and public lands in this early phase of the environmental process,” said Allyson Siwik, Executive Director of the Gila Conservation Coalition. “We need to impress upon the Air Force that the Gila Region is one of the special places that make New Mexico the Land of Enchantment and should not be considered for expanded special use airspace.”
“Veterans groups have been strong allies of ours in the battle for public lands,” said Allison. “They know that public lands offer solace and healing for many returning combat veterans. How ironic and devastating it would be to take this away from them. As we celebrate Veteran’s Day, we honor the service of those in uniform. We also think protecting America’s first Wilderness is patriotic and that there are other areas more appropriate for these training exercises.”
Written comments can be submitted to http://p2a.co/SnYGPdf.