For Immediate Release, September 14, 2011
Contact: Taylor McKinnon, (928) 310-6713
Congressman Steve Pearce Sharpens Call for Renegade Logging
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M.— Rep. Steve Pearce (R-N.M.) sharpened his support today for Otero County’s plan to log national forest lands without U.S. Forest Service approval. Pearce has applauded the plan and vowed to fell the first tree on Sept. 17 on the Lincoln National Forest. The congressman’s press secretary, Jamie Dickerman, today issued a statement in the Summit Voice trying to explain why he thinks Otero County can log national forests without approval from the U.S. Forest Service and other federal agencies.
“Congressman Pearce’s imagination knows no bounds when it comes to asserting local authority over federal public lands and environmental laws,” said Taylor McKinnon, public-lands campaigns director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “It’s both preposterous and ethically bankrupt for a U.S. congressman to encourage and participate in vigilantism against America’s public lands.”
Incidents of vigilantes destroying public lands and endangered species habitat are on the rise in New Mexico following similar calls by Pearce for counties to seize control of federal public land.
Field visits by Center for Biological Diversity staff and a letter to Catron County from the Forest Service confirm that Catron County officials in August trespassed across private land to bulldoze 13.5 miles of the San Francisco River on the Gila National Forest. The river is designated critical habitat for the threatened loach minnow; the bulldozed section includes an inventoried roadless area downstream from Reserve.
In a press release dated Aug. 3, 2011, seven days before the bulldozing incident, Pearce highlighted the fact that sheriffs in counties that patrol the Gila will not enforce roadless rules or the Forest Service’s “travel management plan,” which manages off-road vehicle use. The only federal response from the Obama administration has been a multiagency tour of the area and a letter from the Forest Service to the county.
At an August town hall in Eager, Ariz., Congressman Pearce urged counties to take control of all the land within their boundaries, including federal public land. Pearce, who was called a “Tea Party rock star” by the White Mountain Independent newspaper reporting on the event, praised New Mexico and Oregon counties for “taking control,” including the Otero County sheriff who threatened to arrest any Forest Service staff interfering with the county’s logging on national forest land. Pearce’s own legislation, H.R. 1202, would exempt national forest logging from all environmental laws.