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Bingaman hopes to pass public lands bill

The Organ Mountains (Photo by Heath Haussamen)

U.S. Sen. Jeff Bingaman hopes to pass an omnibus public lands bill during the lame-duck session that could include protection for hundreds of thousands of acres of land in Doña Ana County.

“As chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources committee, Sen. Bingaman is working to develop a package of public lands bills that could be considered if there is time on the Senate floor during the lame duck session,” Bingaman spokeswoman Jude McCartin said. “It’s still unclear what bills would be in such a package, but he’ll be focusing on legislation with bipartisan support.”

McCartin added that the Organ Mountains – Desert Peaks Wilderness Act, which would designate hundreds of thousands of acres in Doña Ana County as wilderness, received unanimous support in July from the committee Bingaman, D-N.M., chairs.

The New York Times says the outlook for such a bill is unknown. Ultimately, it is up to Majority Leader Harry Reid to decide what bills will be scheduled for a vote on the Senate floor.


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The Times quoted Reid’s spokesman as saying Bingaman’s potential public lands bill is on a “long list of items that are possible.” But he added that there’s “not much time” to get things done.

Many wilderness supporters fear it’s now or never – or at least now or not for a long time – for wilderness in Southern New Mexico. Republican Steve Pearce becomes the area’s congressman again in January, and he opposes the wilderness designation.

U.S. Sen. Tom Udall, D-N.M., “strongly” supports Bingaman’s efforts to get a bill passed before the end of the year, spokesman Marissa Padilla said.

“While the lame duck calendar is still being determined,” she said, “it’s clear that signing the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks Wilderness Act into law would be a great improvement in terms of access and security over the existing wilderness study areas.”

Teague hasn’t decided whether to support legislation

Even if the bill makes it through the Senate, its future in the House during the lame-duck session is uncertain. Outgoing U.S. Rep. Harry Teague, D-N.M., hasn’t taken a position on the bill, but he says he remains concerned about its effect on border security – even though Bingaman and Udall have worked to address such concerns and received a strong statement in support of their efforts from the head of the Border Patrol.

Teague spokeswoman Kara Kelber said, “with a unique, exceptionally dangerous drug war that has claimed thousands of lives raging just across the border in Mexico, Harry is cautious to endorse legislation until we know more about how the drug war could impact our national security, and it can be conclusively established that the bill will not hinder Border Patrol and local law enforcement efforts to restrict criminal activity, protect against the drug violence in the border region, and secure our border.”

Kelber said Teague “continues to monitor progress of the bill through the Senate, and, if it is considered by the House before the end of the year, will evaluate the bill and make his decision once the legislation is in final form.”

She said Teague opposes efforts to sell public lands for for-profit development.

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7 comments so far. Scroll down to submit your own comment.

  1. Reading some of the distorted and misguided ideas about border and wilderness and so-called elitists by some of the commentators reminds me of what Walter Lippmann, American journalist said: “When distant and unfamiliar and complex things are communicated to great masses of people, the truth suffers a considerable and often a radical distortion. The complex is made over into the simple, the hypothetical into the dogmatic. . .”

    There is no doubt the TRUTH suffers in this matter. As Francis Bacon wrote in his essays: “WHAT is truth? said jesting Pilate,and would not stay for an answer.”

  2. I hope Senator Bingaman is listening to the footsteps and got the message from the Nov. 2 election. There are too many businesses and organizations in Dona Ana County that object to S.1689 as it is currently written to keep pushing this legislation. Border Security is not a bogus issue or he would have passed it in spite of the objections of the masses. Congressman Teague gets the message on Border Security and won’t back the bill until he is assured that Border Patrol and Law Enforcement are adequately taken care of and evidently he doesnt think they are in the current bill. Lets wait until next year and have an open discussion about the issues and what needs protection, not just all the high points in Dona Ana County.

  3. Hopefully this blatant land grab and lockup by the environmentalists, to keep citizens off their lands, will be deep sixed. This bill has too many onerous provisions about not allowing access by the people, it is just for the elite backpackers and environmentalists who like to talk about it at the PC cocktail parties in Santa Fe, San Francisco, and DC as another scalp they took away from the citizens.

  4. Border security and wilderness has been a bogus issue. “Close collaboration between the Border Patrol and the Department of the Interior on many stretches of the border, including wilderness areas, has improved border security while sustaining land protections and community livelihoods,” said Lynn Scarlett, former Interior deputy secretary under President George W. Bush, who helped craft a 2007 memorandum of understanding between the agencies that many credit with improving relations between the Border Patrol and federal land managers.

    Read this recent study to confirm this matter!

    http://kirk_emerson.home.mindspring.com/Interagency_Border_Cooperation.pdf

  5. Harry. The election is over and you lost. You don’t have to make this blatantly PC statements any more. It’s now ok to vote for a bill that will create a lasting legacy as something positive for this area.

    As they say on Monday Night Football…. “C’mon man”.

  6. This legislation is outstanding. However, there is opposition from the UN Agenda 21conspiracy believers. Just read some of the real outlandish thoughts of this group. You even have the PEOPLE FOR PRESERVING THEIR WESTERN HERITAGE believing some of this weird thinking.

    http://www.resistnet.com/group/montanaresistance/forum/topics/a-new-land-grab-bill-s1470

    http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/f-bloggers/2606088/posts

    Then you have Henry Lamb who sees conspiracy everywhere.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9vW9ORaIR_w&feature=related

    Mr. Lamb believes that government wants to make wilderness off-limits to civilians as part of the Agenda 21 conspiracy. He believes Agenda 21 advocates the dismantling of industrial civilization with depopulation and the complete governmental acquisition and abolition of private land. This is unbelievable, but you do have Tea Party supporting this Agenda 21 conspiracy perspective –

    http://motherjones.com/politics/2010/11/tea-party-agenda-21-un-sustainable-development?page=1

  7. For those who favor the addition of these new wilderness areas, the inclusion of so many different areas, has allowed the bill to be defined by its weakest link, the Portillo Mountains. While that may make no real logical sense, that is the biggest obstacle and an avoidable one.

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