Dear President, domestic food production is connected to federal lands | TSLN.com

Dear President, domestic food production is connected to federal lands

Gary E. Thurm
Las Cruces, NM

Organ Mountains Desert Peaks Monument. Map courtesy Gary Thurm

Gary E. Thurm. Jr., P.E.

Cooper Cattle Company

585 S. Valley Drive

Las Cruces, NM 88005

Dear President Trump and the users of our public lands,

I have an idea. Let's just all get out in the great wild badlands of New Mexico and elsewhere across the west and Recreate, or just get outdoors to take in all the splendor. You know, stop producing for awhile as a country. Give it a rest. Get out in the great outdoors, travel. Take in the sights. Fly here and there, drive from there to a remote wilderness entry location, backpack in, and Recreate, enjoying the beauty of nature. All of us, just drop what your doing. Find your Patagonia, your Oasis. It seems to be a growing movement across the country.

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In 2014, Obama created the Organ Mountains Desert Peaks and just before leaving office in 2016, proclaimed 1.3M acre Bears Ears National Monument. This move was applauded by environmentalists and recreationists alike. Ranchers and historical users of our public lands, left feeling marginalized and defeated as the entire area of the OMDPNM except for the higher elevations of the Organ Mountains, consists of public land managers, grazing cattle, and our voices were not heard, but those that favor recreation and wilderness ideals were heard-they had the least to lose. Of course, he along with Sally Jewell listened to all sides, Right? They made an informed decision, Right? So, maybe my thoughts above regarding the need to relax, recreate more, are not so far off…maybe the work we do and the energy we help produce (proteins, grains, etc) aren't a necessity. Maybe the people on the other side of the fence want more access to these lands to recreate and we really don't need to produce daily sustenance. This is a concept and an ideology I still don't understand as the public had more unfettered opportunities to recreate, hunt, and explore by choice of mode of travel well before Obama created this almost 600,000 acre monument without the consent and support of the ranching community. Hmm…Well…That must be the best use of the lands, Recreating…. or if viewed through the eyes of the environmentalist, who wants full protections on all the lands that I manage, my Mom, Carol Cooper manages, our cowboys have managed, other ranchers near us manage day to day, It must be that our heritage is not priority number one anymore, Recreation prevailed. Our country will surely get their daily supply of nutrition from other countries, most likely from Canada or Mexico. Our energy resources can be shipped in from all over the globe now. I hear that the varying modes of receiving energy resource supplies is becoming more efficient every day now. The media is pretty sharp these days, getting all their facts straight, right?

So, these federal public lands, these state lands that we manage through a lease will be up for renewal in the next several years. Federal Lands Policy and Management Act of 1976 have designated these high desert grasslands as BLM and FS allotments where cattle grazing is the primary use. I imagine if you ask the rancher, the 40 allotment holders within the OMDPNM boundary whether they had considered giving up their livlihoods the next time their renewal is up so that Recreational users and non-use users could apply, they might not like the idea too much, but good luck!

But, we feel that pressure to just throw in the hat. Stop producing, retire and recreate and enjoy the solace of the Wilderness.

Yeah, that's right. There are three possible wilderness areas that could be designated on our ranch. Two of which have been wilderness study areas since 1980. In 1991, they were to be released after much study-see Interiors' Record of Decision. The release never happened. The study areas and management similar to true wilderness areas is still in place. Now one more is in the pike, The Robledos Wilderness Area. No mechanized vehicles allowed through. Be prepared for some incredible hiking opportunities. Bring your gear, lots of water, .22 with snakeshot especially during the fall, spring, and summer. Make sure you bring your national monument passport. Oh yeah, I almost forgot, there are state lands within the monument that require authorization to enter, so get online and get your pass for that, download your maps. Stay alert and be vigilant in protecting yourself and family as there are drug smugglers and human traffickers coming through these areas. Lastly, we have private lands and normally are unlocked for ingress and egress, but we are looking at putting up gates with locks soon, so be ready for some disappointment there. We didn't set up our cattle operation to handle a lot of visitors as we will need to keep the cattle in smaller quarters.

There was a glimmer of hope that we wouldn't have to cave to those that feel that the lands we manage should be managed for accomodating other uses or a move towards non-use. In late August of this year, President Trump ordered a review of national monuments across the U.S. that were created since 1996 and are larger than 100,000 acres. He wanted to make sure that previous presidents and those that advocated for protections of objects of antiquity were truly confined to the smallest area possible for the proper care and management of the objects identifies to be protected-as was the case with Bears Ears, and as it is with the OMDPNM. Secretary Zinke, our Interior department chief was the guy tasked with the review. I had confidence in a fellow veteran of our armed forces, that I hoped had the courage to do right by all westerners faced with this same dilemma, issue. Directly following the wording in the proclamation in regards to the smallest area possible to protect the objects identified… should read something along the lines of "As long as the passage of the act does not negatively affect others that have legal rights to use the land whether through private right or the states rights inherent in their charter." The size of our national monuments as a percentage of the land mass of the western states has continued to grow, but many locals in monument areas are losing their ability to run operations for profit due to continued beauracracy burden.

That review of 27 national monuments included Bears Ears in Utah as well as the Organ Mountains Desert Peaks National Monument in southern NM. Zinke has the courage to do what is right in New Mexico as we have seen in his dealing with Utah. Why he did not exercise that right is beyond me. But, will Trump reduce the boundaries as he did in Utah, so that our tradition of cattle ranching as a primary use continues with minimal impact on operations and will Zinke be consistent in his analysis? Or do we give up as a community of ranchers and let recreation be the primary user? Then sellout to our choice of successor. I hope it is the former. If we as a country stop producing domestically, there won't be any money to go recreate, especially for the farmer and rancher…God bless!

P.S. I love our country and all that she stands for. I love hiking, kayaking, fishing, hunting, snowhoeing, observing, learning about our nation's history, taking care of our public lands, horseback riding, ranching. There has to be a balance out there. We as a country need to find that balance. Now is the time!

Gary E. Thurm, Jr., P.E.

Lands Manager

Cooper Cattle Co.

BLM Allotments #03047 and #03015