This West Is OUR West

New Mexico ranchers worry about possible land restrictions

The Associated Press

September 23, 2018 03:52 PM 

CARLSBAD, N.M.  — Some New Mexico ranchers are worried they could lose their way of life as the U.S. Bureau of Land Management revises its resource management plan.

Land could be subject to classification as wilderness, a move that ranchers worry could restrict their land from commercial uses such as farming or ranching, the Carlsbad Current-Argus reported.

The Bureau of Land Management hosted a public meeting last week in Hope, New Mexico, to solicit feedback from the public on the resource management plan's revision. The resource management plan when finalized directs the bureau's Pecos District's management of federal lands in the region, which contains Eddy, Lea and Chaves counties.

In total, the resource management plan would affect nearly 3,300 square miles (about 8,600 square kilometers) of federally managed areas, considering the needs of numerous industries, while balancing the need to conserve resources and wildlife.

The Hope community of about 100 residents posed concerns unique to the area because of its reliance on the ranching industry. While attendees at a similar meeting in Carlsbad flocked to booths pertaining to mineral extraction, Hope residents stuck to wilderness classifications and the effect on grazelands.

Jim Stovall, the Bureau of Land Management's Pecos District Manager, said it was important to hear a variety of responses, from the oilfields to the ranches.

"This is part of the field office where we don't have a lot of mineral activity," he said. "But they're a good community. It's important for us to come out here and hear their concerns."

The current drafted resource management plan contains five alternatives, including a no action option that would leave the 1988 version of the plan in place. The current plan was first published in 1988

Alternative A focuses on watershed management and restoration, prioritizing that first before other uses and needs.

Alternative B would geographically separate conservation uses such as wilderness classifications, from industrial uses such as extraction or ranching.

Alternative C was identified by the bureau as its preferred alternative, opting for a multi-use methodology to balance all uses on federal land.

Alternative D would prioritize mineral development and extraction over all others, valuing economic growth ahead of conservation and recreational uses.

Bureau spokesman Ty Allen said the preferred option is most similar to what the bureau is already doing.