Coalition works to protect Badlands

Penistaja Badlands 1

By Norma McCallan, Chapter Vice Chair

We are still awaiting publication of the new Resource Management Plan (RMP) from the Bureau of Land Management’s Rio Puerco office, which we expect will provide some protections for unique Badlands landscapes. It was first delayed last winter to incorporate Secretary Salazar’s Dec. 23, 2010, Order 3310. The order initiated a new wildlands policy for the BLM, whose ability to designate wilderness areas had been severely curtailed by an under-the-table deal during the Bush administration.

Now the RMP is delayed again, since our new Congress inserted a rider in the appropriations bill that no funding was allowed in this fiscal year for BLM’s wildlands, and the wording of the RMP must again be revised. The Sierra Club and many other organizations are working to ensure this rider does not carry over to the new (October 1) federal budget. Please urge your Congressional representative to block any effort to include this destructive rider in the next budget.

In the meantime, we have been working with the BLM on the severe illegal wood-cutting problem observed in recent months in the Badlands, where centuries-old ponderosa and juniper are being cut for firewood, their branches and still-green needles lying around the sawed-off stumps.

Representatives from the Sierra Club, Wilderness Society, Native Plant Society, New Mexico Mountain Club, Enchanted Lens Camera Club and various concerned individuals met recently with the BLM to discuss short-term solutions.

The BLM presented a list of ongoing and proposed actions, including surveillance cameras, increased signage, sale of firewood permits at the Forest office in Cuba while its own new Cuba office is under construction, establishment of a patrol contract with the Forest Service and Sandoval County Sheriff to provide increased law-enforcement presence, and initiating some permanent road closures. Several present volunteered to go into the Cuba schools to educate children on the importance of preserving these grandfather trees.

If you would like to be involved in making comments on the RMP or in joining a subcommittee of the Rio Puerco Management Committee that will be looking at both short- and long-term solutions to the woodcutting issue, please let me know: 505/471-0005, nmccallan@mindspring.com.