Twenty-three Senators have thrown their support behind an innocent looking bill that will create an illegal immigration superhighway, remove access to natural resources, and ultimately strip ranchers of their grazing rights while doing nothing to truly “preserve” wilderness as the land is already being used for a variety of economic uses.
When New Mexico’s Senators Bingaman and Udall introduced S. 1689 in September 2009, immigration was barely a blip on the public’s radar. Over the last year, other issues such as stimulus spending, healthcare, and cap and trade have stolen the spotlight. Their harmless sounding bill, which would make lands in New Mexico part of the National Wilderness Preservation System and the National Landscape Conversation System, received virtually no attention. However, it has percolated to the top as the markup of the bill has been approved (23-0) and is headed to the senate floor.
Now, immigration is in the spotlight as even non-border states mimic Arizona’s controversial immigration law. Polls show that the majority of the public wants to stem the tide of illegal immigrants.
Without noise from the public, this New Mexico bill will sail through on a professional courtesy to Senators Bingaman and Udall. Senators give lip service to the demands for closed borders, yet 23 voted to move S. 1689 to the floor. Including McCain, Alexander, Landrieu, and Lincoln, they need to be held accountable.
In southern New Mexico the proposed Organ Mountains – Desert Peaks Wilderness National Conservation Area sets aside a long north/south strip of land just miles from the border that contains all the elements that make it perfect for the movement of both human and drug trafficking: wilderness/de facto wilderness safe havens; east /west highway access; rugged and complex north/south mountain and drainage orientation which provides channels of movement; and high, strategic points of observation.
In northern New Mexico the Bingaman/Udall partnership co-sponsored S. 874 (El Rio Grande Del Norte National Conservation Establishment Act) again impacts land near the border—the border of Colorado and New Mexico. This land is rich in natural resources. Though if Senators Bingaman and Udall have their way, these resources will never be developed, needed jobs will not be created and state revenues will be reduced.
In both the north and the south, the parcels proposed for “conservation” contain both state and federal lands that are leased for farming, ranching, and oil and gas extraction. Specifically stated within S.1689 is the withdrawal of “Operation of the mineral leasing, mineral materials and geothermal leasing laws.” Both restrict the use of motorized vehicles.
The limitation of motorized vehicles changes land management and the ability to pursue traffickers.
In the immigration superhighway, The Organ Mountains – Desert Peaks Wilderness Act, border patrol will be prevented from chasing traffickers in motorized vehicles. Do you think the illegals will be concerned about damaging the wilderness? No. They will have a fleet of vehicles—mirroring the situation in Arizona. Meanwhile, the Border Patrol will have mobility and unencumbered access taken from them. Maybe they can chase the illegals on a burro.
Additionally, the idea of preserving the wilderness is typically about maintaining the land in its original, pristine condition. The nearby Gila Wilderness has become a near biological desert with reduced grass and forb production resulting from the elimination of cattle grazing and the misconceived fire management plan that was implemented as early as the 1920s. Without the water and infrastructure provided for the cattle, the deer concentrations long ago moved out to the south face of the Mogollons where ranchers remained. Likewise in the Otero Mesa area, described by those who want to turn it into a national monument as a pristine grassland, the native grasses are at risk of invasive species like creosote and mesquite. Science is proving that the restoration of many grasslands must have man’s intervention.
Are the Senators trying to block access to America’s natural resources and kill potential job creation for hard working Americans while creating an illegal immigration super highway, or is this another unintended consequence resulting from not understanding the reality of the border? Or, are they simply too deep in the pockets of the environmental industry. Tell the Senators who voted to move S. 1689 out of committee not to vote for its passage when it makes it to the floor. America doesn’t want another immigration super highway and at this point in history, we surely don’t need to be focusing on locking up more lands.
Marita Noon is the Executive Vice President of Energy Makes America Great Inc., the advocacy arm of CARE (Citizens’ Alliance for Responsible Energy), the New Mexico nonprofit organization advocating for citizens’ right to energy that is abundant, available, and affordable. CARE works on energy issues state, region and nationwide. Find out more at http://www.EnergyMakesAmericaGreat.org.