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Pearce's Lies: The Running List

When it comes to environmental issues, Rep. Steve Pearce (R-N.M) has trouble with the truth.

LIE: Rep. Pearce stated to a colleague on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives regarding his attempt to defund the Mexican gray wolf recovery program, “The most provocative sound to a wolf is a crying baby or a laughing baby. It’s a matter of time until these wolves, which will stalk for weeks and weeks and weeks at a time around local homes, it’s a matter of time until a wolf catches one of these children. Their blood will be on your hands.” [1]

TRUTH: There is no evidence for Rep. Pearce’s claim that wolves stalk children, and his effort to defund Mexican gray wolf recovery would hinder a program that, today, only has about 50 wolves in the wild. In fact, there are very few documented cases of wild wolves attacking humans. It is worth noting that other congressional demagogues previously made claims similar to Pearce’s about wolf reintroduction to Yellowstone National Park — saying a wolf would kill a child within the first year after reintroduction (i.e., by 1996) — but since then, no reintroduced wolves or any in the northern Rockies have attacked or injured a human, though wolves occasionally hunt and kill livestock found grazing in their habitat. Pearce has accepted more than $250,000 from ranching interests since 2002, including from donors who hold public-land grazing permits.

LIE: Rep. Pearce claimed that “most of the oil and gas jobs in southeast New Mexico are at risk” if the dunes sagebrush lizard is protected as an endangered species. [2]

TRUTH: The lizard’s habitat exists on less than 1 percent of the Permian Basin oil patch in southeast New Mexico and west Texas, and it is miniscule compared to current oil and gas leasing on public lands. Protection of lizard habitat affected less than one percent of lands that the U.S. Bureau of Land Management proposed to lease to oil and gas operators in 2010-2011. The Santa Fe New Mexican newspaper criticized Pearce, stating, “What a cool, cruel ruse: Pin out-of-work roughnecks' hopes for jobs on keeping the lizard off the endangered-species list, when there's so much terrain to be exploited throughout the basin — but historically kept out of production when it suited executives maneuvering the gas-and-oil markets.” Pearce has accepted nearly $1.2 million from oil and gas interests since 2002, more than the other four members of the New Mexico congressional delegation combined, and he took more money — $319,000 — from Big Oil and Gas than any other non-incumbent candidate for the U.S. House of Representatives in 2010.

LIE: Rep. Pearce asserted that the Endangered Species Act prevents logging in the Lincoln National Forest of New Mexico and that his bill, HR 1202, is needed “to restart jobs in the timber industry by providing for the protection of the Mexican spotted owl in sanctuaries.” [3]

TRUTH: Timber sales in the Lincoln National Forest continue to meet market demand. George Ellinger, owner of Ellinger Logging in Alamogordo, N.M., says that Pearce is misinformed: “There’s a misconception that there’s no logging going on,” he said. “Pearce came down and did a big talk with everybody, but he’s not talking to anybody who knows anything.” Ellinger also said of his colleagues in the timber industry: “The guys who are really griping to Pearce are the ones looking for a handout. They want it given to them for free.” Logging jobs in the Southwest crashed in the 1990s due to market forces, industry mechanization, overharvesting of large trees and increased environmental protections. There is a growing movement of collaboration to restore forests by safely using fire, ensuring community protection, conserving the last of the largest trees, and recovering fish and wildlife populations. Pearce’s congressional district hosts forest-restoration businesses in the communities of Ruidoso, Silver City and Reserve, which are hiring more workers and actively restoring the woods.

LIE: Rep. Pearce declared that U.S. Border Patrol agents “must abandon their vehicles and chase drug smugglers and illegal aliens on foot through 40 acres near the Mexican border because of a pond that is home to the endangered desert pupfish.” [4]

TRUTH: The desert pupfish exists on a single acre in the Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument that cars or trucks cannot access. The Border Patrol stated that its agents patrol around the pupfish pond and that the species does not hinder their job.

LIE: Rep. Pearce proposed that reducing roads in the Gila National Forest of New Mexico from 4,200 miles to 3,300 miles would be “economically damaging, and contrary to the freedoms and traditions upon which this country was founded”; he also said that citizens will be “locked out” of the forest if any roads are closed. [5]

TRUTH: Allowing 3,300 miles of open road on a single national forest provides enough freedom to drive motor vehicles a distance equivalent to that between Los Angeles and Maine. The Gila National Forest suffers a $4.5 million road maintenance backlog that will grow worse even with newly proposed closures. The forest can afford to maintain just 600 miles of road per year. [6]


1. Congressional Record, June 26, 2007, page H7170.
2. Rene Romo, “Lizard listing at center of debate,” Albuquerque Journal, April 27, 2011.
3. Duane Barbati, “Logging in the Lincoln: An industry still alive,” Alamogordo News, April 24, 2011.
4. Milan Simonich, “Border patrol: Pupfish doesn’t hinder job,” Alamogordo News, May 26, 2011.
5. http://pearce.house.gov/press-release/congressman-steve-pearce-states-opposition-proposed-gila-road-closings
6. U.S. Forest Service, Gila National Forest Travel Analysis Report, pages 10-11.


Photo courtesy Flickr Commons/Clinton Steeds