New Mexico Plans Criminal Charges Against Feds for Stealing Land

New Mexico Plans Criminal Charges Against Feds for Stealing Land
After the US Forest Service refused even to discuss the possibility of compromise over the issue of allowing cattle access to water in drought-stricken New Mexico, officials from Otero County are considering bringing criminal charges or civil litigation against the federal government.

Officials say they hope to avoid another armed confrontation like that which occurred at the Bundy Ranch in Nevada over similar federal land management practices.
Fences with locked gates restrict access to about 23 acres around Aqua Chiquita Creek that provide water for native deer and elk and–until recently–privately owned cattle. Federal officials have refused even to answer questions about who has the authority to allow ranchers access to the wetlands.

Ranchers as well as county officials are calling on Congress to come to the assistance of the ranchers, who say access to the wetlands is more necessary than ever after several years of severe drought in southwest New Mexico.
From the Washington Times:
“It’s time for a congressional inquiry into this and probably a committee hearing somewhere in the West to deal with this, because it’s not just here. It’s Utah. It’s Nevada. It’s what’s going on in Texas,” said Albuquerque attorney Blair Dunn, who’s representing Otero County in the matter.
The Otero County Commissioners released a statement late last week saying they were “frustrated and disappointed by the inability of the USFS to work cooperatively in any meaningful way” after federal officials refused to budge at a meeting called by the U.S. attorney.
“It was very frustrating for the sheriff and the county commissioners to go all that way, have that meeting in good faith, and nobody in that room from the federal government ever had any intention of compromising,” said Mr. Dunn.
Federal officials argue that a complex and public process was followed to establish the restrictions on the use of the land in question, and therefore that another such process is required to reverse the decision–an excellent argument in itself for the dangers to freedom that appear when the federal government involves itself in local issues.
In response, ranchers claim that the fence has been opened every spring for years to allow cattle access to water.
County Sheriff Benny House believes that charges against federal officials for criminal trespass or other possible violations may be warranted.
Federal land administration practices came under sharp criticism recently when agents operating under the authority of the United States Bureau of Land Management attempted to roundup cattle that they claimed were illegally grazing on federal land. The roundup led to an armed confrontation between federal officials and supporters of Cliven Bundy, the owner of the cattle in question.
The feds have massively overreached here and it’s good to see states fighting back against their heavy-handed tactics. This land grab isn’t about managing resources better or something like that – states do a better job at land management – but is simply about more control.

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