Revised May 23, 2002
Who We Are and What We Have Done
The Coalition of Arizona/New Mexico Counties (Coalition) began in 1990 with six Counties. The Coalition membership is now 16 Counties. They are the Arizona Counties Apache, Cochise, Gila, Graham, Greenlee and Navajo, and the New Mexico Counties, Catron, Chaves, Eddy, Harding, Hidalgo, Lincoln, Otero, Sierra, Socorro, and Rio Arriba, along with representation from the timber, farming, livestock, mining, small business, sportsman and outfitter industries. Our representation currently exceeds 592,000 in combined County populations.
Our Mission Statement has kept us focused on the primary issues facing the two States. As our motto, “Working together for responsible management” indicates, we are very concerned with proper land planning, management and uses. The following is the Mission Statement and what we have done to fulfill these objectives.
•1. PROTECT THE RURAL ECONOMIES OF ARIZONA AND NEW MEXICO
Every single economic activity in our two States is important to us. This extends from the electronic cottage industry to the manufacturing sector. Diversification is important in nature and economies. We have created templates for doing complete County economic assessments which many member Counties have used. These assessments, in turn, have been effectively used to determine if proposed State or federal actions will have a positive or negative impact.
An often asked question is: Are County governments justified in spending tax dollars promoting and defending local economic activities? Counties represent all of their citizens, and tax revenues from economic activities pay for the development and maintenance of the infrastructure. By protecting the stability of the economic activities, taxes are spread over a larger tax base. Without sufficient revenues, individual private property tax rates will have to increase, which in turn would disproportionately affect low income and retired persons.
•2. EDUCATE THE PUBLIC ON THE ISSUES FACING RURAL ARIZONA AND NEW MEXICO
The Coalition has made numerous presentations to civic groups, clubs and organizations. We have a person employed full time that makes these presentations and communicates with the media in both States.
The Coalition’s General Meetings, held twice a year (the Annual Meeting in March & Annual Barbecue in August), are conducted in a different member county each year for the March
Annual Meeting and at the Glenwood Park in Glenwood, New Mexico for the Annual Barbecue.
At each of these, we gather speakers to present talks on current issues. The Coalition has produced many “white” papers to address a variety of topics. These have been distributed nationwide.
With a generous contribution of her time, Susan Menges created a curriculum for K through 12th grades that delivers the positive message of resource use and management. The Coalition has distributed these packets to schools throughout both States.
The Coalition has also made contributions to public education through organizations like Peoples Alliance for Jobs and the Environment (P.A.J.E.). This has resulted in radio and television exposure for our issues.
•3. ORGANIZE AND ENCOURAGE COMMUNITY INVOLVEMENT AND SUPPORT ON ISSUES CONFRONTING FEDERAL LAND USERS
The Coalition has set up volunteer committee models to involve local citizens in the federal land planning and management issues which most member Counties have established or are in the process of establishing. These committees, along with the Coalition, have provided numerous comments on policy development and proposed federal land management actions. Member Counties are, or have been designated as “Cooperating Agencies” in the federal decision making process under the National Environmental Policy Act as a result of the Coalition’s efforts.
•4. REINSTATE AND REINFORCE THE INTEGRITY OF THE FEDERAL LAND MULTIPLE-USE POLICY
Multiple-use is important to our member Counties and our Nation. Over the last twenty years, the trend is to reduce the amount of multiple use land by creating single-use zones. Now we are witnessing the increase of lands where human activity is prohibited or severely restricted. The Coalition is working to compel the federal agencies to follow the federal law. From 1996 to 2000, the Coalition initiated, and member Counties participated in, the first ever Joint and Cooperatively executed EIS (Environmental Impact Statement) on proposed BLM (Bureau of Land Management) management planning. This was the first time the state of New Mexico was a Joint Lead Agency with a federal agency on a land management action.
•5. MAINTAIN OR INCREASE THE ECONOMIC BASE WHICH RESULTS FROM THE MANAGEMENT OF OUR FEDERAL LANDS INCLUDING EMPLOYMENT, PUBLIC AND PRIVATE REVENUE, AND TAXES
Many of the member Counties have sixty per cent or higher of their land areas under federal control. The multiple uses on those federal lands are significant economic contributors. Recreation, livestock grazing, oil and gas, and mining on the federal lands are the largest economic sectors in the two States.
Member County Catron has purchased the sawmill in Reserve, New Mexico and is poised to reopen the facility. Navajo and Apache Counties in Arizona are embarking on a major forest health project. Eddy County in New Mexico is alerting the legislature and Congressional Delega-tion on the impacts of federal land management actions. Member Counties have invested in numerous economic studies to examine the impact of federal land decisions.
The Coalition and member Counties have intervened in, or become co-plaintiffs, in a number of lawsuits aimed at preserving the economic base and tax revenues of our Counties.
•6. ESTABLISH, DEFINE AND PROTECT THE VESTED RIGHTS OF INDIVIDUALS AND INDUSTRIES HEAVILY DEPENDENT UPON UTILIZING RESOURCES FROM FEDERAL LANDS
The Coalition has initiated and participated in litigation which has established the existence of private property interests on the federal lands. We are currently in the process of expanding those cases and as opportunities arise with good facts and court jurisdictions, we will pursue further litigation.
The Coalition has joined with allies in litigation before the U.S. Supreme Court and U.S. Claims Court to establish the value of vested rights on the federal lands.
•7. SEEK A PROACTIVE SOLUTION TO COUNTY ECONOMIC PROBLEMS WHICH BOTH PROTECTS AND ENHANCES PLANT AND ANIMAL SPECIES LISTED AS THREATENED OR ENDANGERED UNDER THE ENDANGERED SPECIES ACT (ESA) AND AT THE SAME TIME REDUCES THE NEGATIVE EFFECTS OF ESA RESTRICTIONS ON STATE, FEDERAL AND PRIVATE LAND USE AND DEVELOPMENT
Because the listing of threatened and endangered species, recovery plans and designations of critical habitat have created the single largest impacts on Counties, the Coalition has done more work in this area than any other. A lawsuit was decided in the Coalition’s favor in 1997 that challenged the designation of critical habitat for the MSO (Mexican Spotted Owl). (The New Mexico Federal District Court ruled in favor of the Coalition and we concluded a settlement agreement with the U.S. Department of Justice.). The Coalition has filed many amicus briefs and intervened in other cases throughout the west and provided technical research and consultation for others.
One of the biggest achievements was participation in the amending of New Mexico’s Wildlife Conservation Act (the state version of the Endangered Species Act). This has now been offered as a model Act for States to adopt throughout the Nation. The amendments establish local participation in the listing and recovery actions. The amendments also require peer review of the science and economic impact analyses. It also creates incentives for private landowners to participate in species conservation or recovery.
The Coalition has aligned with national and regional groups in repeated efforts to get the Endangered Species Act amended. While there has not been tremendous success in Congress, we are gaining understanding for our problems. In concert with our allies, we have also been able to expand the education of the public about the true state of the environment and what needs to be done to create more improvements.
•8. SEEK TO ESTABLISH AN EQUITABLE BALANCE OF WILDLIFE/LIVESTOCK FORAGE ALLOCATION AND MANDATE MANAGEMENT OF WILDLIFE NUMBERS IN COMPLIANCE WITH THE SHARE OF FORAGE WHICH IS ALLOCATED FOR WILDLIFE
The competition for forage between livestock and wildlife has fostered a conflict between sportsmen, outfitters and ranchers. The Coalition has worked to resolve this conflict. The major problem is that both livestock and wildlife are being concentrated onto fewer and fewer acres of rangeland. Legislation was passed in New Mexico during the 1997 session to address wildlife depredation on private lands. The Coalition participated in the lobbying effort to get that legislation passed.
After twelve years of battle, both Arizona and New Mexico Game Departments have initiated efforts to get better data on wildlife numbers and forage needs. We expect to see meaningful efforts to bring herd sizes into line with forage allocations and just compensation for depredation losses on private and federal lands.
•9. WORK TO PREVENT THE TAKING OF VESTED PROPERTY RIGHTS BY STATE OR FEDERAL REGULATORY AGENCIES WITHOUT GUARANTEEING THE PAYMENT OF JUST COMPENSATION
For twelve years we have pushed private property rights legislation at the State and federal level. While we have yet to get full blown private property protection legislation passed and maintained, we have been able to get a number of small bills and amendments that benefit property owners. Along with partners, we have expanded the base of support for private property protection.
•10. SEEK TO ENFORCE PRESIDENTIAL EXECUTIVE ORDER 12630 AT THE FEDERAL LEVEL AND SEEK STATE LEGISLATION PATTERNED AFTER THIS EXECUTIVE ORDER
In New Mexico, the Coalition put forward the first state legislation in 1990 to protect private property rights. That legislation has been copied in twenty-seven States. We have been unsuccessful in New Mexico, but got a bill passed in Arizona. Environmental organizations poured millions of dollars into Arizona to get this bill defeated in a referendum. We have been able to get elements of the bill adopted administratively in Arizona and assisted in getting a similar bill passed in Utah.
•11. ADDRESS TIMBER, MINING, WILDLIFE AND GRAZING ISSUES ALONG WITH ANY OTHER APPROPRIATE MULTIPLE USE ISSUE ON FEDERAL LANDS BY OFFERING SOUND TECHNICAL ADVICE IN A PROFESSIONAL CAPACITY
The Coalition and individual member Counties have commissioned numerous scientific investigations of our resources. We have also invested in extensive research into threatened and endangered species. This information has been used as evidence in our litigation and in our comments on proposed federal and State actions.
•12. MONITOR THE IMPLEMENTATION OF EXISTING REGULATIONS; I.E., THE ENDANGERED SPECIES ACT, AND THE INTRODUCTION OF NEW REGULATIONS WHICH WILL ULTIMATELY IMPACT MANAGEMENT ON PRIVATE AND FEDERAL LANDS AND VESTED PROPERTY RIGHTS
As indicated above, the Coalition has been active in all of these issues. The Coalition con-ducted the first ever joint National Environmental Policy Act training session with a federal agency. That training session was also used to facilitate a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the Gila National Forest and Catron County, New Mexico.
This MOU details how the County is to be involved in the planning of actions in the forest. The Chief of the Forest Service has issued a memorandum suggesting every forest develop this type of MOU with the local governments adjacent to every forest in the Nation.
From the Coalition’s lead, the State of New Mexico participated as a Joint Lead Agency in the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the BLM State standards and guidelines for rangeland management. Interested Counties were Cooperating Agencies in the process. Both the State and the Counties had membership on the interdisciplinary team drafting the EIS.
Many would look around and say, “Yea, but what has this really accomplished?” The Coalition has come a long way in twelve years and we intend to go further. Because we have consistently relied on the truth and accurate information, our credibility with the media, public, agencies and elected officials increases weekly. A large part of that respect has been earned through legal victories. We are no longer those “loud mouthed radicals” the press vilified and those “wild legal theories” are now case law. What seemed like impossible dreams twelve years ago are now being checked off our Mission list.